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Title: Aspects of Modern Oxford
Author: Godley, A. D. (Alfred Denis), 1856-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]

[Illustration: _IN CORNMARKET STREET.  Drawn by T. H. Crawford._]



                             MODERN OXFORD


                               A MERE DON

                             (A. D. GODLEY)

                        _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY_

             J. H. Lorimer, Lancelot Speed, T. H. Crawford,

                              and E. Stamp


                         SEELEY AND CO. LIMITED

                          Essex Street, Strand






                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

In Cornmarket Street.  _By T. H. Crawford_ . . . . . . . . .

In Christchurch Cathedral.  _By J. H. Lorimer_

New College, Oxford.  _By E. Stamp_

Corpus Christi College.  _By J. H. Lorimer_

Smoking-Room at the Union.  _By T. H. Crawford_

Cricket in the Parks.  _By L. Speed_

Waiting for the Cox.  _By L. Speed_

Ringoal in New College.  _By L. Speed_

Golf at Oxford. The Plateau Hole And Arnold’s Tree.  _By L. Speed_

Commemoration: Outside the Sheldonian Theatre.  _By T. H. Crawford_

In College Rooms.  _By T. H. Crawford_

A Ball at Christchurch.  _By T. H. Crawford_

The Deer Park, Magdalen College, Oxford.  _By J. H. Lorimer_

In Convocation: Conferring a Degree.  _By E. Stamp_

A Lecture-Room in Magdalen College.  _By E. Stamp_

The Library, Merton College.  _By E. Stamp_

Reading the Newdigate.  _By T. H. Crawford_

A Dance at St. John’s.  _By T. H. Crawford_

The Radcliffe.  _By E. Stamp_

In the Bodleian.  _By E. Stamp_

Sailing on the Upper River.  _By L. Speed_

Porch of St. Mary’s.  _By J. Pennell_

In Exeter College Chapel.  _By E. Stamp_

Parsons’ Pleasure.  _By L. Speed_

Fencing.  _By L. Speed_

Lawn Tennis at Oxford.  _By L. Speed_

Bowls in New College Garden.  _By L. Speed_

Coaching the Eight.  _By J. H. Lorimer_

Evening on the River.  _By E. Stamp_

                        ASPECTS OF MODERN OXFORD


    ’We ain’t no thin red heroes, nor we ain’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barracks, most remarkable like you.’
      _Rudyard Kipling_.

Fellows of Colleges who travel on the continent of Europe have, from
time to time, experienced the almost insuperable difficulty of
explaining to the more or less intelligent foreigner their own reason of
existence, and that of the establishment to which they are privileged to
belong.  It is all the worse if your neighbour at the _table d’hôte_ is
acquainted with the Universities of his own country, for these offer no
parallel at all, and to attempt to illustrate by means of them is not
only futile but misleading.  Define any college according to the general
scheme indicated by its founder; when you have made the situation as
intelligible as a limited knowledge of French or German will allow, the
inquirer will conclude that ’_also_ it is a monastic institution,’ and
that you are wearing a hair shirt under your tourist tweeds.  Try to
disabuse him of this impression by pointing out that colleges do not
compel to celibacy, and are intended mainly for the instruction of
youth, and your Continental will go away with the conviction that an
English University is composed of a conglomeration of public schools.
If he tries to get further information from the conversation of a casual
undergraduate, it will appear that a _Ruderverein_ on the Danube offers
most points of comparison.

Fellows themselves fare no better, and are left in an--if
possible--darker obscurity. That they are in some way connected with
education is tolerably obvious, but the particular nature of the
connexion is unexplained. Having thoroughly confused the subject by
showing inconclusively that you are neither a monk, nor a schoolmaster,
nor a _Privat Docent_, you probably acquiesce from sheer weariness in
the title of _Professor_, which, perhaps, is as convenient as any other;
and, after all, _Professoren_ are very different from Professors.  But
all this does nothing to elucidate the nature of a College.  To do this
abroad is nearly as hard as to define the function of a University in

[Illustration: _IN CHRISTCHURCH CATHEDRAL.  By J. H. Lorimer._]

For even at home the general uneducated public, taking but a passing
interest in educational details, is apt to be hopelessly at sea as to
the mutual relation of Colleges and Universities.  In the public mind
the College probably represents the University: an Oxonian will be
sometimes spoken of as ’at College;’ University officials are confused
with heads of houses, and Collections with University examinations.
That foundation which is consecrated to the education of Welsh Oxonians
is generally referred to in the remote fastnesses of the Cymru as Oxford
College.  As usual, a concrete material object, palpable and visible, is
preferred before a cold abstraction like the University.  Explain to the
lay mind that a University is an aggregate of Colleges: it is not, of
course, but the definition will serve sometimes.  Then how about the
London University, which is an examining body?  And how does it happen
that there is a University College in Oxford, not to mention another in
Gower Street? and that Trinity College across the water is often called
Dublin University?  All these problems are calculated to leave the
inquirer very much where he was at first, and in him who tries to
explain them to shake the firm foundations of Reason.

It may be a truism, but it is nevertheless true--according to a phrase
which has done duty in the Schools ere now--that the history of the
University is, and has been for the last five hundred years, the history
of its Colleges; and it is also true that the interweaving of Collegiate
with University life has very much complicated the question of the
student’s reason of existence.  We do not, of course, know what may have
been the various motives which prompted the bold baron, or squire, or
yeoman of the twelfth or thirteenth century to send the most clerkly or
least muscular of his sons to herd with his fellows in the crowded
streets or the mean hostelries of pre-collegiate Oxford; nor have we
very definite data as to the kind of life which the scholar of the
family lived when he got there.  Perhaps he resided in a ’hall;’
according to some authorities there were as many as three hundred halls
in the days of Edward I.; perhaps he was master of his own destinies,
like the free and independent unattached student of modern days--minus a
Censor to watch over the use of his liberties.  But what is tolerably
certain is that he did not then come to Oxford so much with the
intention of ’having a good time’ as with the desire of improving his
mind, or, at least, in some way or other taking part in the intellectual
life of the period, which then centred in the University.  It might be
that among the throngs of boys and young men who crowded the straitened
limits of mediaeval Oxford, there were many who supported the obscure
tenets of their particular Doctor Perspicuus against their opponents’
Doctor Inexplicabilis rather with bills and bows than with disputations
in the Schools; but every Oxonian was in some way vowed to the
advancement of learning--at least, it is hard to see what other
inducement there was to face what must have been, even with all due
allowance made, the exceptional hardships of a student’s life.  Then
came the Colleges--University dating from unknown antiquity, although
the legend which connects its foundation with Alfred has now shared the
fate of most legends; Balliol and Merton, at the end of the thirteenth
century; and the succeeding centuries were fruitful in the establishment
of many other now venerable foundations, taking example and
encouragement from the success and reputation of their earlier compeers.
In their original form colleges were probably intended to be places of
quiet retirement and study, where the earnest scholar might peacefully
pursue his researches without fear of disturbance by the wilder spirits
who roamed the streets and carried on the traditional feuds of Town and
Gown or of North and South.

[Illustration: _NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD.  Drawn by E. Stamp._]

By a curious reverse of circumstances the collegian and the ’_scholaris
nulli collegio vel aulae ascriptus_’ of modern days seem to have changed
characters.  For I have heard it said by those who have to do with
college discipline that their _alumni_ are no longer invariably
distinguished by ’a gentle nature and studious habits’--qualities for
which, as the Warden of Merton says, colleges were originally intended
to provide a welcome haven of rest, and which are now the especial and
gratifying characteristics of that whilom roisterer and boon companion,
the Unattached Student.

We have it on the authority of historians that the original collegiate
design was, properly speaking, a kind of model lodging-house; an
improved, enlarged, and strictly supervised edition of the many hostels
where the primitive undergraduate did mostly congregate.  Fellows and
scholars alike were to be studious and discreet persons; the seniors
were to devote themselves to research, and to stand in a quasi-parental
or elder-brotherly relation to the juniors who had not yet attained to
the grade of a Baccalaureus.  Very strict rules--probably based on those
of monastic institutions--governed the whole body: rules, however, which
are not unnecessarily severe when we consider the fashion of the age and
the comparative youth of both fellows and scholars. Many scholars must
have been little more than children, and the junior don of the fifteenth
century may often have been young enough to receive that corporal
punishment which our rude forefathers inflicted even on the gentler sex.

    ’Solomon said, in accents mild,
    Spare the rod and spoil the child;
    Be they man or be they maid,
    Whip ’em and wallop ’em, Solomon said’

--and the sage’s advice was certainly followed in the case of scholars,
who were birched for offences which in these latter days would call down
a ’gate,’ a fine, or an imposition. Authorities tell us that the early
fellow might even in certain cases be mulcted of his dress, a penalty
which is now reserved for Irish patriots in gaol; and it would seem that
his consumption of beer was limited by regulations which would now be
intolerable to his scout.  Some of the details respecting crime and
punishment, which have been preserved in ancient records, are of the
most remarkable description.  A former Fellow of Corpus (so we are
informed by Dr. Fowler’s History of that College) who had been proved
guilty of an over-susceptibility to the charms of beauty, was condemned
as a penance to preach eight sermons in the Church of St.
Peter-in-the-East. Such was the inscrutable wisdom of a bygone age.

Details have altered since then, but the general scheme of college
discipline remains much the same.  Even in the days when practice was
slackest, theory retained its ancient stringency.  When Mr. Gibbon of
Magdalen absented himself from his lectures, his excuses were received
’with an indulgent smile;’ when he desired to leave Oxford for a few
days, he appears to have done so without let or hindrance; but both
residence and attendance at lectures were theoretically necessary.  The
compromise was hardly satisfactory, but as the scholars’ age increased
and the disciplinary rule meant for fourteen had to be applied to
eighteen, what was to be done?  So, too, we are informed that in the
days of our fathers undergraduates endured a Procrustean tyranny. So
many chapel services you must attend; so many lectures you must hear,
connected or not with your particular studies; and there was no
relaxation of the rule; no excuse even of ’urgent business’ would serve
the pale student who wanted to follow the hounds or play in a cricket
match.  Things, in fact, would have been at a deadlock had not the
authorities recognised the superiority of expediency to mere morality,
and invariably accepted without question the plea of ill-health.  To
’put on an _aeger_’ when in the enjoyment of robust health was after all
as justifiable a fiction as the ’not at home’ of ordinary society.  You
announced yourself as too ill to go to a lecture, and then rode with the
Bicester or played cricket to your heart’s content.  This remarkable
system is now practically obsolete; perhaps we are more moral.

[Illustration: _CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE.  Drawn by F. H. Lorimer._]

Modern collegiate discipline is a parlous matter.  There are still the
old problems to be faced--the difficulty of adapting old rules to new
conditions--the danger on the one hand of treating boys too much like
men, and on the other of treating men too much like boys.  Hence college
authorities generally fall back on some system of more or less ingenious
compromise--a course which is no doubt prudent in the long run, and
shows a laudable desire for the attainment of the Aristotelian ’mean,’
but which, like most compromises, manages to secure the disapproval
alike of all shades of outside opinion.  We live with the fear of the
evening papers before our eyes, and an erring undergraduate who has been
sent down may quite possibly be avenged by a newspaper column reflecting
on college discipline in general, and the dons who sent him down in
particular.  Every day martinets tell us that the University is going to
the dogs from excess of leniency; while critics of the
’Boys-will-be-boys’ school point out the extreme danger of sitting
permanently on the safety valve, and dancing on the edge of an active

In recent years most of the ’Halls’ have been practically extinguished,
and thereby certain eccentricities of administration removed from our
midst.  It was perhaps as well; some of these ancient and honourable
establishments having during the present century rather fallen from
their former reputation, from their readiness to receive into the fold
incapables or minor criminals to whom the moral or intellectual
atmosphere of a college was uncongenial.  This was a very convenient
system for colleges, who could thus get rid of an idle or stupid man
without the responsibility of blighting his University career and his
prospects in general; but the Halls, which were thus turned into a kind
of sink, became rather curious and undesirable abiding-places in
consequence.  They were inhabited by grave and reverend seniors who
couldn’t, and by distinguished athletes who wouldn’t, pass Smalls, much
less Mods.  At one time ’Charsley’s’ was said to be able to play the
’Varsity Eleven.  These mixed multitudes appear to have been governed on
very various and remarkable principles.  At one establishment it was
considered a breach of courtesy if you did not, when going to London,
give the authorities some idea of the _probable_ length of your absence.
’The way to govern a college,’ the venerated head of this institution is
reported to have said, ’is this--_to keep one eye shut_,’ presumably the
optic on the side of the offender.  Yet it is curious that while most of
the Halls appear to have been ruled rather by the _gant de velours_ than
the _main de fer_, one of them is currently reported to have been the
scene of an attempt to inflict corporal punishment.  This heroic
endeavour to restore the customs of the ancients was not crowned with
immediate success, and he who should have been beaten with stripes fled
for justice to the Vice-Chancellor’s Court.

[Illustration: _SMOKING-ROOM AT THE UNION.  Drawn by T. H. Crawford._]

Casual visitors to Oxford who are acquainted with the statutes of the
University will no doubt have observed that it has been found
unnecessary to insist on exact obedience to all the rules which were
framed for the student of four hundred years ago.  For instance, boots
are generally worn; undergraduates are not prohibited from riding
horses, nor even from carrying lethal weapons; the _herba nicotiana sive
Tobacco_ is in common use; and, especially in summer, garments are not
so ’subfusc’ as the strict letter of the law requires. Perhaps, too, the
wearing of the academic cap and gown is not so universally necessary as
it was heretofore.  All these are matters for the jurisdiction of the
Proctors, who rightly lay more stress on the real order and good
behaviour of their realm.  And whatever evils civilisation may bring in
the train, there can be no doubt that the task of these officials is far
less dangerous than of old, as their subjects are less turbulent.  They
have no longer to interfere in the faction fights of Northern and
Southern students.  It is unusual for a Proctor to carry a pole-axe,
even when he is ’drawing’ the most dangerous of billiard-rooms.  The
Town and Gown rows which used to provide so attractive a picture for the
novelist--where the hero used to stand pale and determined, defying a
crowd of infuriated bargemen--are extinct and forgotten these last ten
years. Altogether the streets are quieter; models, in fact, of peace and
good order: when the anarchical element is loose it seems to prefer the
interior of Colleges.  Various reasons might be assigned for this:
sometimes the presence of too easily defied authority gives a piquancy
to crime; or it is the place itself which is the incentive.  The open
space of a quadrangle is found to be a convenient stage for the
performance of the midnight reveller.  He is watched from the windows by
a ring of admiring friends, and the surrounding walls are a kind of
sounding-board which enhances the natural beauty of
’Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ (with an accompaniment of tea-tray and poker
_obbligato_).  Every one has his own ideal of an enjoyable evening.


    ’In the sad and sodden street
      To and fro
    Flit the feverstricken feet
    Of the Freshers, as they meet,
      Come and go.’

Whatever the theory of their founders, it is at no late period in the
history of colleges that we begin to trace the development of the modern
undergraduate. It was only natural that the ’gentle natures and studious
habits’ of a select band of learners should undergo some modification as
college after college was founded, and comparative frivolity would from
time to time obtain admission to the sacred precincts.  The University
became the resort of wealth and rank, as well as of mere intellect, and
the gradual influx of commoners--still more, of ’gentlemen
commoners’--once for all determined the character of colleges as places
of serious and uninterrupted study.  Probably the Civil War, bringing
the Court to Oxford, was a potent factor in relaxation of the older
academic discipline; deans or sub-wardens of the period doubtless
finding some difficulty in adapting their rules to the requirements of
undergraduates who might from time to time absent themselves from chapel
or lecture in order to raid a Parliamentary outpost.

But perhaps the most instructive picture of the seventeenth-century
undergraduate is to be found in the account-book of one Wilding, of
Wadham (published by the Oxford Historical Society), apparently a
reading man and a scholar of his college, destined for Holy Orders.  The
number of his books (he gives a list of them) shows him to have been
something of a student, while repeated entries of large sums paid for
’Wiggs’ (on one occasion as much as 14*s*--more than his ’Battles’ for
the quarter!) would seem to suggest something of the habits of the ’gay
young sparks’ alluded to by Hearne in the next century. On the whole,
Master Wilding appears to have been a virtuous and studious young
gentleman.  Now and then the natural man asserts himself, and he treats
his friends to wine or ’coffea,’ or even makes an excursion to
’Abbington’ (4*s.*!).  Towards the end of his career a ’gaudy’ costs
2*s.* 6*d.*, after which comes the too-suggestive entry, ’For a purge,
1*s.*’  Then comes the close: outstanding bills are paid to the alarming
extent of 7*s.* 8*d.*; a ’wigg,’ which originally cost 14*s.*, is
disposed of at a ruinous reduction for 6*s.*--the prudent man does not
give it away to his scout--and J. Wilding, B.A., e. Coll., Wadh.,
retires to his country parsonage--having first invested sixpence in a
sermon.  Evidently a person of methodical habits and punctual payments;
that had two wigs, and everything handsome about him; and that probably
grumbled quite as much at the 10*s.* fee for his tutor as his modern
successor does at his 8*l.* 6*s.* 8*d.*  But, on the whole, collegiate
and university fees seem to have been small.

After this description of the _vie intime_ of an undergraduate at
Wadham, history is reserved on the subject of the junior members of the
University; which is the more disappointing, as the historic Muse is not
only garrulous, but exceedingly scandalous in recounting the virtues and
the aberrations of eighteenth-century dons.  Here and there we find an
occasional notice of the ways of undergraduates--here a private memoir,
there an academic _brochure_.  We learn, incidentally, how Mr. John
Potenger, of New College, made ’theams in prose and verse,’ and
eventually ’came to a tollerable proficiency in colloquial Latin;’ how
Mr. Meadowcourt, of Merton, got into serious trouble--was prevented, in
fact, from taking his degree--for drinking the health of His Majesty
King George the First; and how Mr. Carty, of University College,
suffered a similar fate ’for prophaning, with mad intemperance, that
day, on which he ought, with sober chearfulness, to have commemorated
the restoration of King Charles the Second’ (this was in 1716); how Mr.
Shenstone found, at Pembroke College, both sober men ’who amused
themselves in the evening with reading Greek and drinking water,’ and
also ’a set of jolly sprightly young fellows .... who drank ale, smoked
tobacco,’ and even ’punned;’ and how Lord Shelburne had a ’narrow-minded
tutor.’  From which we may gather, that University life was not so very
different from what it is now: our forefathers were more exercised about
politics, for which we have now substituted a perhaps extreme devotion
to athletics.  But for the most part, the undergraduate is not prominent
in history--seeming, in fact, to be regarded as the least important
element in the University.  On the other hand, his successor of the
present century--the era of the Examination Schools--occupies so
prominent a place in the eyes of the public that it is difficult to
speak of him, lest haply one should be accused of frivolity or want of
reverence for the _raison d’être_ of all academic institutions.

[Illustration: _CRICKET IN THE PARKS.  By Launcelot Speed._]

His own reason of existence is not so obvious.  It was, as we have said,
tolerably clear that the mediaeval student came to Oxford primarily for
the love of learning something, at any rate; but the student _fin de
siècle_ is one of the most labyrinthine parts of a complex civilisation.
Of the hundreds of boys who are shot on the G.W.R. platform every
October to be caressed or kicked by Alma Mater, and returned in due time
full or empty, it is only an insignificant minority who come up with the
ostensible purpose of learning. Their reasons are as many as the colours
of their portmanteaus.  Brown has come up because he is in the sixth
form at school, and was sent in for a scholarship by a head-master
desiring an advertisement; Jones, because it is thought by his friends
that he might get into the ’Varsity eleven; Robinson, because his father
considers a University career to be a stepping-stone to the
professions--which it fortunately is not as yet.  Mr. Sangazur is, going
to St. Boniface because his father was there; and Mr. J. Sangazur
Smith--well, probably because _his_ father wasn’t.  Altogether they are
a motley crew, and it is not the least achievement of the University
that she does somehow or other manage to impress a certain stamp on so
many different kinds of metal. But in this she is only an instrument in
the hands of modern civilisation, which is always extinguishing
eccentricities and abnormal types; and even Oxford, while her sons are
getting rid of those interesting individualities which used to
distinguish them from each other, is fast losing many of the
peculiarities which used to distinguish it from the rest of the world.
It is an age of monotony.  Even the Freshman, that delightful creation
of a bygone age, is not by any means what he was.  He is still young,
but no longer innocent; the bloom is off his credulity; you cannot play
practical jokes upon him any more.  Now and then a young man will
present himself to his college authorities in a gown of which the
superfluous dimensions and unusual embroidery betray the handiwork of
the provincial tailor; two or three neophytes may annually be seen
perambulating the High in academic dress with a walking-stick; but these
are only survivals. Senior men have no longer their old privileges of
’ragging’ the freshman.  In ancient times, as we are informed by the
historian of Merton College, ’Freshmen were expected to sit on a form,
and make jokes for the amusement of their companions, on pain of being
"tucked," or scarified by the thumb-nail applied under the lip.  The
first Earl of Shaftesbury describes in detail this rather barbarous jest
as practised at Exeter College, and relates how, aided by some freshmen
of unusual size and strength, he himself headed a mutiny which led to
the eventual abolition of ’tucking.’  Again, on Candlemas Day every
freshman received notice to prepare a speech to be delivered on the
following Shrove Tuesday, when they were compelled to declaim in undress
from a form placed on the high table, being rewarded with "cawdel" if
the performances were good, with cawdel and salted drink if it were
indifferent, and with salted drink and "tucks" if it were dull.  This is
what American students call ’hazing,’ and the German _Fuchs_ is
subjected to similar ordeals.  But we have changed all that, and treat
the ’fresher’ now with the respect he deserves.

Possibly the undergraduate of fiction and the drama may have been once a
living reality.  But he is so no more, and modern realistic novelists
will have to imagine some hero less crude in colouring and more in
harmony with the compromises and neutral tints of the latter half of the
nineteenth century.  The young Oxonian or Cantab of fifty years back, as
represented by contemporary or nearly contemporary writers, was always
in extremes:--

    ’When he was good he was very, very good;
      But when he was bad he was horrid,’

like the little girl of the poet.  He was either an inimitable example
of improbable virtue, or abnormally vicious.  The bad undergraduate
defied the Ten Commandments, all and severally, with the ease and
success of the villain of transpontine melodrama.  Nothing came amiss to
him, from forgery to screwing up the Dean and letting it be understood
that some one else had done it; but retribution generally came at last,
and this compound of manifold vices was detected and rusticated; and it
was understood that from rustication to the gallows was the shortest and
easiest of transitions.  The virtuous undergraduate wore trousers too
short for him and supported his relations.  He did not generally join in
any athletic pastimes, but when the stroke of his college eight fainted
from excitement just before the start, the neglected sizar threw off his
threadbare coat, leapt into the vacant seat, and won his crew at once
the proud position of head of the river by the simple process of making
four bumps on the same night, explaining afterwards that he had
practised in a dingey and saw how it could be done.  Then there was the
Admirable Crichton of University life, perhaps the commonest type among
these heroes of romance.  He was invariably at Christ Church, and very
often had a background of more or less tragic memories from the far-away
days of his _jeunesse orageuse_. Nevertheless he unbent so far as to do
nothing much during the first three and a half years of his academic
career, except to go to a good many wine parties, where he always wore
his cap and gown (especially in female fiction), and drank more than any
one else.  Then, when every one supposed he must be ploughed in Greats,
he sat up so late for a week, and wore so many wet towels, that
eventually he was announced at the Encaenia, amid the plaudits of his
friends and the approving smiles of the Vice-Chancellor, as the winner
of a Double-First, several University prizes, and a Fellowship; after
which it was only right and natural that the recipient of so many
coveted distinctions should lead the heroine of the piece to the altar.

[Illustration: _WAITING FOR THE COX.  Drawn by Lancelot Speed._]

Possibly the Oxford of a bygone generation may have furnished models for
these brilliantly coloured pictures; or, as is more probable, they were
created by the licence of fiction. At any rate the ’man’ of modern times
is a far less picturesque person--unpicturesque even to the verge of
becoming ordinary.  He is seldom eccentric or _outré_ in externals.  His
manners are such as he has learnt at school, and his customs those of
the world he lives in. His dress would excite no remark in Piccadilly.
The gorgeous waistcoats of Leech’s pencil and Calverley’s ’_crurum non
enarrabile tegmen_’ belong to ancient history.  He is, on the whole,
inexpensive in his habits, as it is now the fashion to be poor; he no
longer orders in a tailor’s whole shop, and his clubs are generally
managed with economy and prudence. If, however, the undergraduate
occasionally displays the virtues of maturer age, there are certain
indications that he is less of a grown-up person than he was in the
brave days of old.  It takes him a long time to forget his school-days.
Only exceptionally untrammelled spirits regard independent reading as
more important than the ministrations of their tutor. Pass-men have been
known to speak of their work for the schools as ’lessons,’ and, in their
first term, to call the head of the College the head-master.  Naturally,
too, school-life has imbued both Pass and Class men with an enduring
passion for games--probably rather a good thing in itself, although
inadequate as the be-all and end-all of youthful energy. Even those who
do not play them can talk about them.  Cricket and football are always
as prolific a topic as the weather, and nearly as interesting, as many a
perfunctory ’Fresher’s breakfast’ can testify.

[Illustration: _RINGOAL IN NEW COLLEGE.  Drawn by Lancelot Speed._]

The undergraduate, in these as in other things, is like the young of his
species, with whom, after all, he has a good deal in common.  Take, in
short, the ordinary provincial young man; add a dash of the schoolboy
and just a touch of the _Bursch_, and you have what Mr. Hardy calls the
’Normal Undergraduate.’

[Illustration: Ringoal]

It used to be the custom to draw a very hard-and-fast line of
demarcation between the rowing and the reading man--rowing being taken
as a type of athletics in general, and indeed being the only form of
physical exercise which possessed a regular organization.  Rumour has it
that a certain tutor (now defunct) laid so much emphasis on this
distinction that men whose circumstances permitted them to be idle were
regarded with disfavour if they took to reading.  He docketed freshmen
as reading or non-reading men, and would not allow either kind to stray
into the domain of the other. However, the general fusion of classes and
professions has levelled these boundaries now. The rowing man reads to a
certain extent, and the reading man has very often pretensions to
athletic eminence; it is in fact highly desirable that he should, now
that a ’Varsity ’blue’ provides an assistant master in a school with at
least as good a salary as does a brilliant degree.  Yet, although the
great majority of men belong to the intermediate class of those who take
life as they find it, and make no one occupation the object of their
exclusive devotion, it is hardly necessary to say that there are still
extremes--the Brutal Athlete at one end of the line and the bookish
recluse (often, though wrongly, identified with the ’Smug’) at the
other.  The existence of the first is encouraged by the modern tendency
to professionalism in athletics.  Mere amateurs who regard games as an
amusement can never hope to do anything; a thing must be taken
seriously.  Every schoolboy who wishes to obtain renown in the columns
of sporting papers has his ’record,’ and comes up to Oxford with the
express intention of ’cutting’ somebody else’s, and the athletic
authorities of the University know all about Jones’s bowling average at
Eton, or Brown’s form as three-quarter-back at Rugby, long before these
distinguished persons have matriculated.  Nor is it only cricket,
football, and rowing that are the objects of our worship.  Even so staid
and contemplative a pastime as golf ranks among ’athletics;’ and perhaps
in time the authorities will be asked to give a ’Blue’ for croquet.
These things being so, on the whole, perhaps, we should be grateful to
the eminent athlete for the comparative affability of his demeanour, so
long as he is not seriously contradicted.  He is great, but he is
generally merciful.

Thews and sinews have probably as much admiration as is good for them,
and nearly as much as they want.  On the other hand, the practice of
reading has undoubtedly been popularised.  It is no longer a clique of
students who seek honours; public opinion in and outside the University
demands of an increasing majority of men that they should appear to be
improving their minds.  The Pass-man pure and simple diminishes in
numbers annually; no doubt in time he will be a kind of pariah.
Colleges compete with each other in the Schools.  Evening papers prove
by statistics the immorality of an establishment where a scholar who
obtains a second is allowed to remain in residence.  The stress and
strain of the system would be hardly bearable were it not decidedly less
difficult to obtain a class in honours than it used to be--not, perhaps,
a First, or even a Second; but certainly the lower grades are easier of
attainment.  Then the variety of subjects is such as to appeal to every
one: history, law, theology, natural science (in all its branches),
mathematics, all invite the ambitious student whose relations wish him
to take honours, and will be quite satisfied with a Fourth; and eminent
specialists compete for the privilege of instructing him. The tutor who
complained to the undergraduate that he had sixteen pupils was met by
the just retort that the undergraduate had sixteen tutors.

Drawn by Lancelot Speed._]

The relation of the University to the undergraduate is twofold; it is
’kept’--as a witty scholar of Dublin is fabled to have inscribed over
the door of his Dean, ’for his amusement and instruction’--and if the
latter is frequently formal, it is still more often and in a great
variety of ways ’informal,’ and not communicated through his tutor.  Not
to mention the many college literary societies--every college has one at
least, and they are all ready to discuss any topic, from the Origin of
Evil to bimetallism--there are now in the University various learned
societies, modelled and sometimes called after the German _Seminar_,
which are intended to supplement the deficiencies of tuition, and to
keep the serious student abreast of the newest erudition which has been
’made in Germany,’ or anywhere else on the Continent.  Then there is the
Union as a school of eloquence for the political aspirant; or the
’private business’ of his college debating society, where a vote of
censure on Ministers is sometimes emphasised by their ejection into the
quadrangle, may qualify him for the possible methods of a future House
of Commons.


    ’The women longed to go and see the _college_ and the _tutour_.’
      _’The Guardian’s Instruction’ by Stephen Penton._

When the late Mr. Bright asserted that the tone of Oxford life and
thought was ’provincial with a difference,’ great indignation was
aroused in the breasts of all Oxford men--residents, at least; whether
it was the provincialism or the ’difference’ wherein lay the sting of
the taunt.  Probably it was the first.  For, although it is a tenable
hypothesis that _Kleinstädtigkeit_ has really been a potent factor in
the production of much that is best in art and literature, still nobody
likes to be called provincial by those whose business is in the
metropolis.  Caesar said that he would rather be a great man at Gabii,
or whatever was the Little Pedlington of Italy, than an ordinary person
at Rome; but the modern Little Pedlingtonian would seldom confess to so
grovelling an ambition, whatever might be his real feelings.  He would
much sooner be one of the crowd in London than mayor of his native city:
so at least he says.  And so he is very angry if you call him
provincial, and venture to insinuate that his views of life are limited
by the jurisdiction of his Local Board or City Council; and thus the
University of Oxford refused for a long time to forgive John Bright, and
did not quite forget his strictures even when it gave him an honorary
degree and called him ’patriae et libertatis amantissimus.’  And yet the
authorities had done what they could to keep the University provincial.
It was only after many and deep searchings of heart that the Hebdomadal
Council consented to countenance the advent of the Great Western
Railway; while the ten miles which separate Oxford from Steventon
preserved undergraduates from the contaminating contact of the
metropolis there was still hope, but many venerable Tories held that
University discipline was past praying for when a three-hours’ run would
bring you into the heart of the dissipation of London.  Some there were
who could not even imagine that so terrible a change had really taken
place; it is said that Dr. Routh, the President of Magdalen, who
attained the respectable age of ninety-nine in the year 1855 (he was
elected towards the close of the last century as a _warming-pan_, being
then of a delicate constitution and not supposed likely to live!),
persistently ignored the development of railways altogether; when
undergraduates came up late at the beginning of the winter term, he
would excuse them on the ground of the badness of the roads.

We have changed all that, like other provincial centres; and
undergraduates who want to ’see their dentist’--a venerable and
time-honoured plea which we have heard expressed by the delicate-minded
as ’the necessity for keeping a dental engagement’--may now run up to
town and back between lunch and ’hall;’ the latter function having also
marched with the times, and even six-o’clock dinner being now almost a
thing of the past. Not so long ago five was the regular hour. In the
early seventies seven-o’clock dinner was regarded as a doubtful
innovation; and there we have stopped for the present.  But the
fashionable world outside the colleges imitates London customs--always
keeping a little way behind the age--and what has been called the ’Parks
System’ actually dines as late as 7.45 when it is determined to be _très
chic_.  It is only one sign of the influx of metropolitan ideas; but
there are many others.  Oxford tradesmen have learnt by bitter
experience that the modern undergraduate is not an exclusive preserve
for them like his father.  That respected county magnate, when he was at
Oriel, bought his coats from an Oxford tailor and his wine from an
Oxford wine-merchant, to whom--being an honest man--he paid about half
as much again as he would have paid anywhere in London, thereby
recouping the men of coats or of wines for the many bad debts made by
dealing with the transitory and impecunious undergraduate.  But his son
gets his clothes in London, and his wine from the college, which deals
directly with Bordeaux.  And the tone and subject of conversation is
changed too.  Oxford is thoroughly up to date, and knows all about the
latest play at the Criterion and the latest scandal in the inner circle
of London society--or thinks it does, at any rate: there is no one who
knows so much about London as the man who does not live there.

T. H. Crawford._]

But if Oxford goes to London, so does London come to Oxford.  Whether it
be fitting or not that the site of a theoretically learned University
should be in summer a sort of people’s park or recreation-ground for the
jaded Londoner, the fact is so: the classes and the masses are always
with us in one form or another.  It has become a common and laudable
practice for East-end clergymen and the staff of Toynbee Hall and the
Oxford House to bring down their flocks on Whit-Monday or other
appropriate occasions; and one may constantly see high academic
dignitaries piloting an unwieldy train of excursionists, and trying to
compress University history into a small compass, or to explain the
nature of a college (of all phenomena most unexplainable to the lay
mind) to an audience which has never seen any other place of education
than a Board school.  As for the classes, they have raised the Eights
and ’Commem.’ to the rank of regular engagements in a London season, and
they go through both with that unflinching heroism which the English
public invariably display in the performance of a social duty: they
shiver in summer frocks on the barges, despite the hail and snowstorms
of what is ironically described as the ’Summer’ term; and after a hard
day’s sightseeing they enjoy a well-earned repose by going to
Commemoration balls, where you really do dance, not for a perfunctory
two hours or so, but from 8.30 to 6.30 a.m.  In spite of these hardships
it is gratifying to observe that, whether or not the University succeeds
in its educational mission, it appears to leave nothing to be desired as
a place of amusement for the jaded pleasure-seeker. People who go to
sleep at a farce have been known to smile at the (to a resident) dullest
and least impressive University function. Ladies appear to take an
especial delight in penetrating the mysteries of College life. Perhaps
the female mind is piqued by a subdued flavour of impropriety, dating
from a period when colleges were not what they are; or more probably
they find it gratifying to the self-respect of a superior sex to observe
and to pity the notoriously ineffectual attempts of mere bachelors to
render existence bearable.  So much for the term; and when the vacation
begins Oxford is generally inundated by a swarm of heterogeneous
tourists--Americans, who come here on their way between Paris and
Stratford-on-Avon; Germans, distinguished by a white umbrella and a red
’Baedeker,’ trying to realise that here, too, is a University, despite
the absence of students with slashed noses and the altogether different
quality of the beer.  Then with August come the Extension students; the
more frivolous to picnic at Nuneham and Islip, the seriously-minded to
attend lectures which compress all knowledge into a fortnight’s course,
and to speculate on the future when they--the real University, as they
say--will succeed to the inheritance of an unenlightened generation
which is wasting its great opportunities.

[Illustration: _IN COLLEGE ROOMS.  Drawn by T. H. Crawford._]

At Commemoration a general sense of lobster salad pervades the
atmosphere, and the natural beauties of colleges are concealed or
enhanced by a profusion of planking and red cloth; the architectural
merit of a hall is as nothing compared to the elasticity of its floor.
The Eights, again, provide attractions of their own, not especially
academic. The truly judicious sightseer will avoid both of these festive
seasons, and will choose some time when there is less to interfere with
his own proper pursuit--the week after the Eights, perhaps, or the
beginning of the October term, when the red Virginia creeper makes a
pleasing contrast with the grey collegiate walls.  Nor will he, if he is
wise, allow himself to be ’rushed’ through the various objects of
interest: there are, it is believed, local guides who profess to show
the whole of Oxford in two hours; but rumour asserts that the feat is
accomplished by making the several quadrangles of one college do duty
for a corresponding number of separate establishments, so that the
credulous visitor leaves Christ Church with the impression that he has
seen not only ’The House,’ but also several other foundations, all
curiously enough communicating with each other.  And in any case, after
a mere scamper through the colleges, nothing remains in the mind but a
vague and inaccurate reminiscence, combining in one the characteristics
of all; the jaded sightseer goes back to London with a fortunately
soon-to-be-forgotten idea that Keble was founded by Alfred the Great,
and that Tom Quad is a nickname for the Vice-Chancellor. Samuel Pepys
seems to have been to a certain extent the prototype of this kind of
curiosity or antiquity hunter, and paid a ’shilling to a boy that showed
me the Colleges before dinner.’  (Curiously enough, ’after dinner’ the
honorarium to ’one that showed us the schools and library’ was 10*s.*!)

[Illustration: _A BALL AT CHRIST CHURCH.  Drawn by T. H. Crawford_]

He who is responsible for the proper conduct of a gang of relations or
friends will not treat them in this way.  He will endeavour, so far as
possible, to confine them within the limits of his own college, where he
is on his native heath, and, if he is not an antiquarian, can at least
animate the venerable buildings with details of contemporary history. He
will point out his Dons (like the great French nation, ’objects of
hatred or admiration, but never of indifference’) with such derision or
reverence as they may deserve, and affix to them ancient anecdotes
whereby their personality may be remembered.  He will show to an
admiring circle the statue which was painted green, the pinnacle climbed
by a friend in the confidence of inebriation, and the marks of the
bonfire which the Dean did not succeed in putting out.  Even the most
ignorant and frivolous-minded person can make his own college
interesting.  When he has succeeded in impressing upon his friends the
true character of a college as a place of religion and sound learning,
he may be permitted to show them such external objects as form a part of
every one’s education, and which no one (for the very shame of
confessing it) can pretermit unseen, such as the gardens of New College
or St. John’s, the ’Nose’ of B.N.C, the Burne-Jones tapestry at Exeter,
or the picture of Mr. Gladstone in the hall of Christ Church. Those who
absolutely insist on a more comprehensive view of the University and
City may be allowed to make the ascent of some convenient point of
view--Magdalen Tower, for instance; it is a stiff climb, but the view
from the top will repay your exertions.  This is where, as since the
appearance of Mr. Holman Hunt’s picture everybody is probably aware, the
choir of the college annually salute the rising sun from the top of the
tower by singing a Latin hymn on May morning--while the youth of the
city, for reasons certainly not known to themselves, make morning
hideous with blowing of unmelodious horns in the street below.  At all
times--even at sunrise on a rainy May morning--it is a noble prospect.
The unlovely red-brick suburbs of the north are hidden from sight by the
intervening towers and pinnacles of the real Oxford; immediately below
the High Street winds westwards, flanked by colleges and churches, of
which the prevailing grey is relieved by the green trees of those many
gardens and unexplored nooks of verdure with which Oxford abounds; to
the south there are glimpses of the river flowing towards the dim grey
line of the distant Berkshire downs. To the historically-minded the
outlook may suggest many a picture of bygone times--scenes of brawling
in the noisy High Street, when the old battle of Town and Gown was
fought with cold steel, and blood flowed freely on both sides--in the
days when the maltreated townsman appealing to the Proctor could get no
satisfaction but a ’thrust at him with his poleaxe!’  Down the street
which lies below passed Queen Elizabeth--’Virgo Pia Docta Felix’--after
being royally entertained with sumptuous pageants and the play of
’Palamon and Arcyte’ in the Christ Church hall.  Over the Cherwell, in
the troublous times of the Civil Wars, rode the Royalist horse to beat
up the Parliamentary quarters below the Chiltern hills and among the
woods of the Buckinghamshire border--enterprising undergraduates perhaps
taking an _exeat_ to accompany them.  Here it was that certain scholars
of Magdalen, having a quarrel with Lord Norreys by reason of
deer-stealing, ’went up privately to the top of their tower, and waiting
till he should pass by towards Ricot’ (Rycote) ’sent down a shower of
stones upon him and his retinew, wounding some and endangering others of
their lives’--and worse might have happened had not the ’retinew’ taken
the precaution, foreseeing the assault, to put boards or tables on their
heads.  At a later day Pope entered Oxford by this road, and there is a
pretty description of the scene in one of his letters--it will no doubt
appeal to the nineteenth-century visitor who departs through slums to
the architecturally unimpressive station of the Great Western.  ’The
shades of the evening overtook me.  The moon rose in the clearest sky I
ever saw, by whose solemn light I paced on slowly, without company, or
any interruption to the range of my own thoughts.  About a mile before I
reached Oxford all the bells tolled in different notes, the clocks of
every college answered one another, and sounded forth (some in a deeper,
some in a softer tone) that it was eleven at night.  All this was no ill
preparation to the life I have led since among those old walls,
venerable galleries, stone porticos, studious walks, and solitary scenes
of the University.’  Jerry-built rows of lodging-houses rather militate
against the romance of the Iffley Road as we know it now.


But, after all, the majority of sightseers are not given to historical
reflections.  What most people want is something that ’palpitates with
actuality;’ they want to see the machine working.  They are temporarily
happy if they can see a Proctor in his robes of office, and rise to the
enthusiasm of ’never having had such a delightful day’ if the Proctor
happens to ’proctorise’ an undergraduate within the ken of their vision.
’It was all so _delightful_ and mediaeval, and all that kind of thing,
don’t you know?  Poor young man--simply for not wearing one of those
horrid caps and gowns! _I_ call it a shame.’  This is the reason why a
Degree Day is so wonderfully popular a ceremony.  There is a sense of
attractive mystery about it all--the Vice-Chancellor throned in the
Theatre or Convocation House, discoursing in unintelligible scraps of
Latin like the refrain of a song, and the Proctors doing their
quarter-deck walk--although the dignity of the function be rather marred
by the undergraduates who jostle and giggle in the background forgetting
that they are assisting at a ceremony which is, after all, one of the
University’s reasons of existence.  It is the same kind of curiosity
which causes the lecturer to become suddenly conscious that he is being
watched with intense interest--an interest to which he is altogether
unaccustomed--by ’only a face at the window’ of his lecture-room, to his
own confusion and the undisguised amusement of his audience.

[Illustration: _IN CONVOCATION: CONFERRING A DEGREE.  Drawn by Ernest

Such are sightseers: yet every man to his taste.  When Samuel Pepys came
over from Abingdon to see the sights of the University town, it is
gratifying and rather surprising to learn that what most impressed him
was the small price paid for creature comforts: ’Oxford mighty fine
place,’ such is the diarist’s reflection, ’and _cheap entertainment_.’


    ’Thinketh one made them in a fit of the blues.’

If there is one subject on which the professedly non-reading
undergraduate is nearly always eloquent it is the aggravation of his
naturally hard lot by the examination system; that is, not only ’The
Schools’ themselves, but the ancillary organization of lectures,
’collections,’ and college tuition in general; all which machinery,
being intended to save him from himself and enable him to accomplish the
ostensible purpose of his residence at the University, he very properly
regards as an entirely unnecessary instrument of torture, designed and
perfected by the gratuitous and malignant ingenuity of Dons, whose sole
object is the oppression of undergraduates in general and himself in
particular. He is obliged to attend lectures, at least occasionally.
His tutors compel him to attempt to pass his University examination at a
definite date; and then--adding insult to injury--actually reproach him
or even send him down for his ill success, just as if he had not always
demonstrated to them by repeated statements and constant proofs of
incapacity that he had not the smallest intention of getting through!
Small wonder, perhaps, that on returning from a highly unsatisfactory
interview with the University examiners to a yet more exasperating
colloquy with the authorities of his college, he should wish that fate
had not matched him with the ’cosmic process’ of the nineteenth century;
and that it had been his happier lot to come up to Oxford in the days
when examinations were not, and his remote ancestors got their degrees
without any vain display of mere intellectual proficiency, or went down
without them if they chose.

[Illustration: _A LECTURE-ROOM IN MAGDALEN COLLEGE.  Drawn by E.

And yet, should the modern undergraduate take the trouble (which of
course he never does) to acquaint himself with the statutes and
ordinances which governed his University in the pre-examination period,
he would find that even then the rose was not wholly devoid of thorns.
Even then the powers that be had decreed that life should not be
completely beer, nor altogether skittles.  It is true that the student
was probably less molested by his college; but the regulations of the
University dealt far more hardly with him than they do at present.
Under the statutes of Archbishop Laud, the University exercised those
functions of teaching and general supervision which it has since in
great part surrendered to its component colleges; and in theory the
University was a hard task-mistress.

Attendance at professorial lectures was theoretically obligatory, and
’since not only reading and thought, but practice also, is of the
greatest avail towards proficiency in learning,’ it was required that
the candidate for a degree should ’dispute’ in the Schools at stated and
frequent times during the whole course of his academic career.
Beginning by listening to the disputations of his seniors (a custom
which perhaps survives in the modern fashion which sometimes provides a
’gallery’ at the ceremony of _viva voce_), he was as time went on
required himself to maintain and publicly defend doctrines in a manner
which would be highly embarrassing to his modern successor--’responding’
at first to the arguments of the stater of a theory, and with riper
wisdom being promoted to the position of Opponent.’  This opposing and
responding was termed ’doing generals.’  ’Argufying’ was the business of
the University in the seventeenth century, and had been so for a long

On the memorable occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Oxford in the
year 1566, Her Majesty was entertained intermittently with disputations
on the moon’s influence on the tides, and the right of rebellion against
bad government.  Thus, Archbishop Laud required of the
seventeenth-century undergraduate so many disputations before he became
a _sophista_, and so many again before he could be admitted to the
degree of Bachelor; and if the system had worked in practice as it was
intended to do in theory, young Oxford would not have had an easy time
of it.  In the days of Antony Wood’s undergraduate career exercises in
the ’Schooles’ were ’very good.’  ’Philosophy disputations in Lent time,
frequent in the Greek tongue; _coursing_ very much, ending alwaies in
blowes,’ which Wood considers scandalous; but at least it shows the
serious spirit of the disputants.  But a University can always be
trusted to temper the biting wind of oppressive regulations to its shorn
alumni; and there can be no doubt that the comparative slackness and
sleepiness of the eighteenth century--a somnolence which it is easy to
exaggerate, but impossible altogether to deny--must have tended to wear
the sharp corners off the academic curriculum.  Indications that this
was so are not wanting.  After all, there must have been many ways of
avoiding originality in a disputation.  A writer in ’Terrae Filius’
(1720) states the case as follows:--

’All students in the University who are above one year’s standing, and
have not taken their batchelor’ (of arts) ’degree, are required by
statute to be present at this awful solemnity’ (disputation for a
degree), ’which is designed for a public proof of the progress he has
made in the art of reasoning; tho’ in fact it is no more than a formal
repetition of a set of syllogisms upon some ridiculous question in
logick, which they get by rote, or, perhaps, only read out of their
caps, which lie before them with their notes in them.  These commodious
sets of syllogisms are call’d strings, and descend from undergraduate to
undergraduate, in regular succession; so that, when any candidate for a
degree is to exercise his talent in argumentation, he has nothing else
to do but to enquire amongst his friends for a string upon such-and-such
a question.’

So, even in the early part of the present century, reverend persons
proceeding to the degree of D.D. have been known to avail themselves of
a thesis (or written harangue on some point of theology) not compiled by
their unaided exertions, but kept among the archives of their college
and passed round as occasion might require.  If mature theologians have
reconciled this with their consciences in the nineteenth, what may not
have been possible to an undergraduate in the eighteenth century? Also,
the functionary who stood in the place of the modern examiner was a very
different kind of person from his successor--that incarnation of cold
and impassive criticism; collusion between ’opponent’ and ’respondent’
must have been possible and frequent; and so far had things gone that
the candidate for a degree was permitted to choose the ’Master’ who was
to examine him, and it appears to have been customary to invite your
Master to dinner on the night preceding the final disputation.  Witness
’Terrae Filius ’once more:--

’Most candidates get leave .... to chuse their own examiners, who never
fail to be their old cronies and toping companions....  It is also well
known to be the custom for the candidates either to present their
examiners with a piece of gold, or to give them a handsome
entertainment, and make them drunk, which they commonly do the night
before examination, and some times keep them till morning, and so
adjourn, cheek by jowl, from their drinking-room to the school, where
they are to be examined.’

The same author adds: ’This to me seems the great business of
_determination_: to pay money and get drunk.’

Vicesimus Knox, who took his B.A. degree in 1775, is at pains to
represent the whole process of so-called examination as an elaborate
farce.  ’Every candidate,’ he says, ’is obliged to be examined in the
whole circle of the sciences by three masters of arts, of his own
choice.’  Naturally, the temptation is too much for poor humanity.  ’It
is reckoned good management to get acquainted with two or three jolly
young masters and supply them well with port previously to the
examination.’  _Viva voce_ once put on this convivial footing, it is not
surprising that ’the examiners and the candidate often converse on the
last drinking bout, or on horses, or read the newspapers, or a novel, or
divert themselves as well as they can till the clock strikes eleven,
when all parties descend, and the _testimonium_ is signed by the
masters.’  Under such circumstances it is obvious that the provisions of
Archbishop Laud might be shorn of half their terrors. Even at an earlier
period other methods of evasion were not wanting.  As early as 1656,
orders were made ’abolishing’ the custom of candidates standing treat to
examiners.  In the statute which still prescribes the duties of the
_clericus universitatis_, there is a clause threatening him with severe
penalties--to the extent of paying a fine of ten shillings--should he so
far misuse his especial charge, the University clock, as to ’retard and
presently precipitate the course’ of that venerable time-piece, ’in such
a manner that the hours appointed for public exercises be unjustly
shortened, to the harm and prejudice of the studious.’  Moreover, we
read in Wood that notice of examination was given by ’tickets stuck up
on certaine public corners, which would be suddenly after taken downe’
by the candidate’s friends.  To such straits and to such unworthy shifts
could disputants be reduced by mere inability to find matter.

It has been said that attendance at professorial lectures was
theoretically obligatory; but it is hardly necessary to point out that
even serious students have occasionally dispensed with the duty of
attending lectures; and it is more than whispered there have been
occasions in recent centuries when it was not an audience only that was
wanting.  There are, of course, instances of both extremes.  Rumour
tells of a certain professor of anatomy, who, lacking a quorum, bade his
servant ’bring out the skeleton, in order that I may be able to address
you as "gentle*men*;"’ but all professors have not been so
conscientious.  Gibbon goes so far as to assert that ’in the University
of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have for these many
years given up altogether the pretence of teaching,’ and the Reverend
James Hurdie does not much improve the matter, when he prepares to
refute the historian’s charge in his ’Vindication of Magdalen College.’
So far as the College is concerned, the reverend gentleman has something
of a case; but his defence of the University is not altogether
satisfying.  Some of the professors, no doubt, do lecture in a
statutable manner. But ’the late noble but unfortunate Professor of
Civil Law began his office with reading lectures, and only desisted for
want of an audience’ (a plausible excuse, were it not that some
lecturers seem to have entertained peculiar ideas as to the constitution
of an audience).  ’Terrae Filius’ has a story of a Professor of Divinity
who came to his lecture-room, found to his surprise and displeasure, a
band of intending hearers, and dismissed them straightway with the
summary remark: ’Domini, vos non estis idonei auditores!’  ’The present
Professor, newly appointed (the author has heard it from the highest
authority), means to read.’  Moreover, ’the late Professor of Botany at
one time _did_ read.’  In fact, as the ’Oxford Spy’ observes in 1818:--

    ’Yet here the rays of Modern Science spread:
    Professors are appointed, lectures read.
    If none attend, or hear: not ours the blame,
    Theirs is the folly--and be theirs the shame.’

It is evident that professorial lectures were not a wholly unbearable

’It is recorded in the veracious chronicle of Herodotus that Sandoces, a
Persian judge, had been crucified by Darius, on the charge of taking a
bribe to determine a cause wrongly; but while he yet hung on the cross,
Darius found by calculation that the good deeds of Sandoces towards the
king’s house were more numerous than his evil deeds, and so, confessing
that he had acted with more haste than wisdom, he ordered him to be
taken down and set at large.’

[Illustration: _THE LIBRARY, MERTON COLLEGE.  Drawn by Ernest Stamp._]

So when the Universities are at last confronted with that great Day of
Reckoning which is continually held over their heads by external
enemies, and which timorous friends are always trying to stave off by
grudging concessions and half-hearted sympathy with Movements; when we
are brought to the bar of that grand and final commission, which is once
for all to purge Oxford and Cambridge of their last remnants of
mediaevalism, and bring them into line with the marching columns of
modern Democracy; when the judgment is set and the books are opened, we
may hope that some extenuating circumstances may be found to set against
the long enumeration of academic crimes.  There will be no denying that
Oxford has been the home of dead languages and undying prejudice.  It
will be admitted as only too true that Natural Science students were for
many years compelled to learn a little Greek, and that colleges have not
been prepared to sacrifice the greater part of their immoral revenues to
the furtherance of University Extension; and we shall have to plead
guilty to the damning charge of having returned two Tory members to
several successive Parliaments.  All this Oxford has done, and more;
there is no getting out of it. Yet her counsel will be able to plead in
her favour that once at least she has been found not retarding the rear,
but actually leading the van of nineteenth-century progress; for it will
hardly be denied that if the Universities did not invent the Examination
System, at least they were among the first to welcome and to adapt it;
and that if it had not been for the development of examinations,
qualifying and competitive, at Oxford and Cambridge, the ranks of the
Civil Service would have continued for many years longer to be recruited
by the bad old method of nomination (commonly called jobbery and
nepotism by the excluded), and society would, perhaps, never have
realised that a knowledge of Chaucer is among the most desirable
qualifications for an officer in Her Majesty’s Army. Here, at least, the
Universities have been privileged to set an example.

The Oxford examination system is practically contemporaneous with the
century; the first regular class list having been published in 1807.
The change was long in coming, and when it did come the face of the
University was not revolutionised; if the alteration contained, as it
undoubtedly did, the germs of a revolution which was to extend far
beyond academic boundaries, it bore the aspect of a most desirable but
most moderate reform.  Instead of obtaining a degree by the obsolete
process of perfunctory disputation, ambitious men were invited to offer
certain books (classical works for the most part), and in these to
undergo the ordeal of a written and oral examination; the oral part
being at that time probably as important as the other. Sudden and
violent changes are repugnant to all Englishmen, and more especially to
the rulers of Universities, those homes of ancient tradition; and just
as early railways found it difficult to escape from the form of the
stage-coach and the old nomenclature of the road, so the new Final
Honour School took over (so to speak) the plant of a system which it
superseded.  _Viva voce_ was still (and is to the present day)
important, because it was the direct successor of oral disputation.  The
candidate for a degree had obtained that distinction by a theoretical
argument with three ’opponents’ in the Schools; so now the opponents
were represented by a nearly corresponding number of examiners, and the
_viva voce_ part of the examination was for a long time regarded as a
contest of wit between the candidate and the questioner.  Nor did the
race for honours affect the great majority of the University as it does
at present.  It was intended for the talented few: it was not a matter
of course that Tom, Dick, and Harry should go in for honours because
their friends wished it, or because their college tutor wished to keep
his college out of the evening papers.  Candidates for honours were
regarded as rather exceptional persons, and a brilliant performance in
the Schools was regarded as a tolerably sure augury of success in life:
a belief which was, perhaps, justified by facts then, but which--like
most beliefs, dying hard--has unfortunately survived into a state of
society where it is impossible to provide the assurance of a successful
career for all and each of the eighty or hundred ’first-class’ men whom
the University annually presents to an unwelcoming world.

[Illustration: _READING THE NEWDIGATE.  Drawn by T, H. Crawford._]

However small its beginnings it was inevitable that the recognition of
intellect should exercise the greatest influence--though not immediately
and obviously--on the future of the University.  _La carrière_ once
_ouverte aux talents_--the fact being established and recognised that
one man was intellectually not only as good as another, but a deal
better--colleges could not help following the example set them; the
first stirrings of ’inter-collegiate competition’ began to be felt, and
after forty years or so (for colleges generally proceed in these and
similar matters with commendable caution, and it was only the earlier
part of the nineteenth century after all) began the gradual abolition of
’close’ scholarships and fellowships--those admirable endowments whereby
the native of some specified county or town was provided with a
competence for life, solely in virtue of the happy accident of birth.
To disregard talent openly placarded and certificated was no longer
possible.  The most steady-going and venerable institutions began to be
reanimated by the infusion of new blood, and to be pervaded by the
newest and most ’dangerous’ ideas.

Nor were the outside public slow to avail themselves after their manner
of the changed state of things.  The possessor of a University degree
has at all times been regarded by less fortunate persons with a kind of
superstitious awe, as one who has lived in mysterious precincts and
practised curious (if not always useful) arts, and at first the title of
’Honourman,’ implying that the holder belonged to a privileged
few--_élite_ of the _élites_--whom a University, itself learned, had
delighted to honour for their learning, could inspire nothing less than
reverence.  Also the distinction was a very convenient one.  The public
is naturally only too glad to have any ready and satisfactory
testimonial which may help as a method of selection among the host of
applicants for its various employments; and here was a diploma signed by
competent authorities and bearing no suspicion of fear or favour.
Presently the public began to follow the lead of Oxford and Cambridge,
and examine for itself, but that is another story: schoolmasters more
especially have always kept a keen eye on the class list.  So an
intellectual distinction comes in time to have a commercial price, and
this no doubt has had something (though, we will hope, not everything)
to do with the increase in the number of ’Schools’ and the growing
facilities for obtaining so-called honours.  But it is needless to
observe that the multiplication of the article tends to the depreciation
of its value.  The First-class man, who was a potential Cabinet Minister
or an embryo Archbishop at the beginning of the century, is now capable
of descending to all kinds of employments.  He does not indeed--being
perhaps conscious of incapacity--serve as a waiter in a hotel, after the
fashion of American students in the vacation, but he has been known to
accept gratefully a post in a private school where his tenure of office
depends largely on the form he shows in bowling to the second eleven.

Here in Oxford, though we still respect a ’First,’ and though perhaps
the greater part of our available educational capacity is devoted to the
conversion of passmen into honourmen, there are signs that examinations
are no longer quite regarded as the highest good and the chief object of
existence.  It is an age of specialism, and yet it is hard to mould the
whole University system to suit the particular studies of every
specialist.  Multiply Final Schools as you will, ’the genuine student’
with one engrossing interest will multiply far more quickly; and just as
the athlete and non-reading man complains that the schools interrupt his
amusements, the man who specialises on the pips of an orange, or who
regards nothing in history worth reading except a period of two years
and six months in the later Byzantine empire, will pathetically lament
that examinations are interrupting his real work. Are men made for the
Schools, or the Schools for men?  It is a continual problem; perhaps
examinations are only a _pis aller_, and we must be content to wait till
science instructs us how to gauge mental faculty by experiment without
subjecting the philosopher to the ordeal of Latin Prose, and the ’pure
scholar’ to the test of a possibly useless acquaintance with the true
inwardness of Hegelianism.  After all it is the greatest happiness of
the greatest number that has to be considered, and the majority as yet
are not special students.  Moreover, there are various kinds of
specialists.  If ’general knowledge’ (as has been said) is too often
synonymous with ’particular ignorance,’ it is equally true that
specialism in one branch is sometimes not wholly unconnected with
failure in another.

[Illustration: _A DANCE AT ST. JOHN’S.  Drawn by T. Hamilton Crawford,

It was the severance of another link with the past when the scene of
examinations was transferred from the ’Old Schools’--the purlieus of the
Sheldonian and the Bodleian--to a new and perhaps unnecessarily palatial
building in the High Street, which is as little in keeping with the
dark, crumbling walls of its neighbour, University College, as the
motley throng of examinees (_pueri innuptaeque puellae_) is out of
harmony with the traditions of an age which did not recognise the
necessity of female education.  We have changed all that, and possibly
the change is for the better, for while the atmosphere which pervaded
the ancient dens now appropriated to the use of the great library was
certainly academic, and was sometimes cool and pleasant in summer, the
conditions of the game became almost intolerable in winter.  Unless he
would die under the process of examinations like the Chinese of story,
the candidate must provide himself with greatcoats and rugs enough (it
was said) to hide a ’crib,’ or even a Liddell and Scott, for the
proximity of the Bodleian forbade any lighting or warming apparatus.
But in the new examination schools comfort and luxury reign; rare
marbles adorn even the least conspicuous corners, and the only survivals
of antiquity are the ancient tables, which are popularly supposed to be
contemporaneous with the examination system, and are bescrawled and
bescratched with every possible variety of inscription and
hieroglyphic--from adaptations of verses in the Psalms to a list of
possible Derby winners--from a caricature of the ’invigilating’ examiner
to a sentimental but unflattering reminiscence of one’s partner at last
night’s dance.  Here they sit, a remarkable medley, all sorts,
conditions, and even ages of men, herded together as they probably never
will be again in after-life: undeserving talent cheek by jowl with
meritorious dulness; callow youth fresh from the rod of the
schoolmaster, and mature age with a family waiting anxiously outside;
and a minority of the fairer sex, whose presence is rather embarrassing
to examiners who do not see their way to dealing with possible hysteria.
And in the evening they will return--if it is Commemoration week; the
venerable tables will be cleared away, and the ’Scholae Magnae Borealis
et Australis’ will be used for the more desirable purpose of dancing.
Is it merely soft nothings that the Christ Church undergraduate is
whispering to that young lady from Somerville Hall, as they ’sit out’
the lancers in the romantic light of several hundred Chinese lanterns?
Not at all; they are comparing notes about their _viva voce_ in history.


    ’I only wish my critics had to write
      A High-class Paper!’

The business of those who teach in the Universities is to criticise
mistakes, and criticism of style has two results for the master and the
scholar.  It may produce that straining after correctness in small
matters which the cold world calls pedantry; and in the case of those
who are not content only to observe, but are afflicted with a desire to
produce, criticism of style takes the form of parody or imitation; for a
good parody or a good imitation of an author’s manner is an
object-lesson in criticism.  Hence it is that that same intolerance of
error which makes members of a University slow in the production of
really great works stimulates the genesis of ephemeral and mostly
imitative literature.  The more Oxford concerns herself with literary
style, the more she is likely in her less serious moods to ape the
manner of contemporary literature.  It all comes, in the first instance,
of being taught to copy Sophocles and travesty Virgil.  Ephemeral
literature, then, at the Universities has always been essentially
imitative.  In the last century, when it was the fashion to be
classical--and when as in the earlier poems of Mr. Barry Lyndon, ’Sol
bedecked the verdant mead, or pallid Luna shed her ray’--Oxonian minor
poets imitated the London wits and sang the charms of the local belles
under the sobriquets of Chloe and Delia, and academic essayists copied
the manner of the ’Spectator,’ and hit off the weaknesses of their
friends, Androtion and Clearchus; and now that the world has come to be
ruled by newspapers, it is only natural that the style and the methods
of the daily and weekly press should in some degree affect the lighter
literature of Universities, and that not only undergraduates, who are
naturally imitative, but even dons, who might be supposed to know
better, should find themselves contributing to and redacting
publications which are conducted more or less on the lines of the ’new

[Illustration: _THE RADCLIFFE.  Drawn by Ernest Stamp._]

Oxford has been slow to develop in this particular direction, and the
reasons are not far to seek.  The conditions just now are exceptionally
favourable--that is, a _cacoëthes scribendi_ has coincided with
abundance of matter to write about, but the organs of the great external
world naturally provide a model for the writer.  But it is only recently
that these causes have been all together present and operative, and the
absence of one or more of them has at different times been as effectual
as the absence of all.  In the early part of the present century there
can have been no lack of matter: University reform was at least in the
air, athletics were developing, the examination system was already in
full swing. But for some reason the tendency of the University was not
in the direction of the production of ephemeral or at least frivolous
literature.  The pompous Toryism of University authorities seventy years
ago did not encourage any intellectual activity unconnected with the
regular curriculum of the student, and when intellectual activity began
to develop, it was rather on the lines of theological discussion--the
subjects were hardly fitted for the columns of a newspaper.  At an
earlier date the Vice-Chancellor was interviewed by the delegate of an
aspiring clique of undergraduates, who wished to form a literary club
and to obtain the sanction of authority for its formation.  He refused
to grant the society any formal recognition, on the ground that while it
was true that the statutes did not absolutely forbid such things, they
certainly did not specifically mention them; and the members of the
club--when it was eventually founded independent of the
Vice-Chancellarial auspices--were known among their friends as the
’Lunatics.’  Such was the somewhat obscurantist temper of the University
about the year 1820; and we can imagine that the Vice-Chancellor, who
could find nothing in the statutes encouraging a debating society, would
not have looked with enthusiastic approbation on a newspaper designed to
discuss University matters without respect for authority. Even if he
had, it would have been hard to appeal to all sections of the community;
though there was certainly more general activity in the University than
formerly, the _gaudia_ and _discursus_ of undergraduates were matters of
comparatively small importance to their friends, and of none at all to
their pastors and masters.

In the earlier part of the eighteenth century the conditions were
exactly reversed.  To judge from the specimens that have survived to the
present day (and how much of our own lighter literature will be in
evidence 170 years hence?) there must have been plenty of ’available
talent.’  It was an age of essayists.  Addison and Steele set the
fashion for the metropolis: and as has been said before, Oxford
satirists followed at some distance in the wake of these giants.  The
form of ’Terrae Filius’ is that of the ’Tatler’ and ’Spectator,’ and the
’Oxford Magazine’ of that day is largely composed of essays on men,
women, and manners; many are still quite readable, and most have been
recognised as remarkably smart in their day. Nor is it only in professed
and formal satire that the talent of the time displays itself. Thomas
Hearne of the Bodleian was careful to keep a voluminous note-book,
chronicling not only the ’plums’ extracted by his daily researches from
the dark recesses of the library, but also various anecdotes, scandalous
or respectable, of his contemporaries; and one is tempted to regret that
so admirable a talent for bepraising his friends and libelling his
enemies should be comparatively _perdu_ among extracts from ’Schoppius
de Arte Critica,’ copies of church brasses, and such-like antiquarian
lumber--the whole forming a ’Collection’ only recently published for the
world’s edification by the Oxford Historical Society.  His
’appreciations’ would have made the fortune of any paper relying for its
main interest on personalities, after the fashion which we are learning
from the Americans.  ’Descriptions of his friends and enemies, such as
’An extravagant, haughty, loose man,’ ’a Dull, Stupid, whiggish
Companion,’ are frequent and free; and anecdotes of obscure college
scandal abound.  We read how the ’Snivelling, conceited, and ignorant,
as well as Fanatical Vice-Principal of St. Edmund Hall .... _sconc’d_
two gentlemen, which is a Plain Indication of his Furious Temper;’ and
how ’Mr. ---- of _Christ Church_ last _Easter-day_, under pretence of
being ill, desired one of the other chaplains to read Prayers for him:
which accordingly was done.  Yet such was the impudence of the man that
he appeared in the Hall at dinner!’

[Illustration: _IN THE BODLEIAN.  Drawn by Ernest Stamp._]

As it was, however, those very collections which exhibit Hearne’s
peculiar genius show us at the same time how impossible, even granting
the supposition to be not altogether anachronistic, a regular University
’News-letter’ would have been.  We talk now in a vague and, perhaps,
rather unintelligible fashion of ’University politics,’ and in some way
contrive to identify Gladstonianism with a susceptibility to the claims
of a school of English literature, or whatever is the latest phrase of
progress--mixing up internal legislation with the external politics of
the great world.  But in Hearne’s time there were no University politics
to discuss.  ’Their toasts,’ says Gibbon of the Fellows of Magdalen
College, ’were not expressive of the most lively loyalty to the House of
Hanover,’ and Hearne’s interest in politics has nothing to do with the
Hebdomadal Council.  When he speaks of ’our white-liver’d Professor, Dr.
----,’ or describes the highest official in the University as ’old
Smooth-boots, the Vice-Chancellor,’ it is generally for the very
sufficient reason that the person in question is what Dr. Johnson called
a ’vile Whig.’  But Tory politics and common-room scandal and jobbery
apart, the University would appear to have slept the sleep of the
unjust.  ’Terrae Filius’ grumbles at the corrupt method of
’examination,’ and ’The Student’ is lively and satirical on the
peccadilloes and escapades of various members of society.  But your
prose essayist is apt to be intermittent, and the publication that
relies mainly on him leans on a breaking reed; so that we can hardly be
surprised that the last-named periodical should eke out its pages with
imitations of Tibullus, to the first of which the Editor appends the
encouraging note, ’If this is approved by the publick, the Author will
occasionally oblige us with more _Elegies_ in the same style and

Now that every one is anxious to see his own name and his friend’s name
in print, and that the general public takes, or pretends to take, a keen
interest in the details of every cricket-match and boat-race, a paper
chronicling University matters cannot complain of the smallness of its
_clientèle_.  Every one wants news.  The undergraduate who has made a
speech at the Union, or a century for his college second eleven, wants a
printed certificate of his glorious achievements.  Dons, and
undergraduates too, for that matter, are anxious to read about the last
hint of a possible Commission or the newest thing in University
Extension.  Men who have gone down but a short time ago are still
interested in the doings of the (of course degenerate) remnant who are
left; and even the non-academic Oxford residents, a large and increasing
class, are on the watch for some glimpse of University doings, and some
distant echo of common-room gossip.  Modern journalism appeals more or
less to all these classes; it cannot complain of the want of an
audience, nor, on the whole, of a want of news to satisfy it, and
certainly an Oxford organ cannot lack models for imitation, or awful
examples to avoid.  It is, in fact, the very multiplicity of
contemporary periodicals that is the source of difficulty.  A paper
conducted in the provinces by amateurs--that is, by persons who have
also other things to do--is always on its probation. The fierce light of
the opinion of a limited public is continually beating on it.  Its
contributors should do everything a little better than the hirelings of
the merely professional organs of the unlearned metropolis; its leaders
must be more judicious than those of the ’Times,’ its occasional notes a
little more spicy than Mr. Labouchere’s, and its reviews a little more
learned than those of the ’Journal of Philology.’  Should it fall short
of perfection in any of these branches, it ’has no reason for
existence,’ and is in fact described as ’probably moribund.’  Yet
another terror is added to the life of an Oxford editor: he _must_ be at
least often ’funny;’ he must endeavour in some sort to carry out the
great traditions of the ’Oxford Spectator’ and the ’Shotover Papers;’
and as the English public is generally best amused by personalities, he
must be careful to observe the almost invisible line which separates the
justifiable skit from the offensive attack.  Now, the undergraduate
contributor to the press is seldom successful as a humourist. He is
occasionally violent and he is often--more especially after the festive
season of Christmas--addicted to sentimental verse; but for mere
frivolity and ’lightness of touch’ it is safer to apply to his tutor.

It is a rather remarkable fact that almost all University
papers--certainly all that have succeeded under the trying conditions of
the game--have been managed and for the most part written, not by the
exuberant vitality of undergraduate youth, but by the less interesting
prudence of graduate maturity.  It is remarkable, but not surprising.
Undergraduate talent is occasionally brilliant, but is naturally
transient.  Generations succeed each other with such rapidity that the
most capable editorial staff is vanishing into thin air just at the
moment when a journal has reached the highest pitch of popularity.
Moreover, amateur talent is always hard to deal with, as organizers of
private theatricals know to their cost; and there is no member of
society more capable of disappointing his friends at a critical moment
than the amateur contributor to the press.  Should the spirit move him,
he will send four columns when the editor wants one; but if he is not in
the vein, or happens to have something else to do, there is no promise
so sacred and no threat so terrible as to persuade him to put pen to
paper.  If these are statements of general application, they are doubly
true of undergraduates, who are always distracted by a too great
diversity of occupations: Jones, whose power of intermittent satire has
made him the terror of his Dons, has unaccountably taken to reading for
the Schools; the poet, Smith, has gone into training for the Torpids;
and Brown, whose ’_Voces Populi_ in a Ladies’ College’ were to have been
something quite too excruciatingly funny, has fallen in love in the
vacation and will write nothing but bad poetry.  Such are the trials of
the editor who drives an undergraduate team; and hence it comes about
that the steady-going periodicals for which the public can pay a yearly
subscription in advance, with the prospect of seeing at any rate half
the value of its money, are principally controlled by graduates.  No
doubt they sometimes preserve a certain appearance of youthful vigour by
worshipping undergraduate talent, and using the word ’Donnish’ as often
and as contemptuously as possible.

[Illustration: _SAILING ON THE UPPER RIVER.  Drawn by L. Speed._]

Nevertheless, there appear from time to time various ephemeral and
meteoric publications, edited by junior members of the University.  They
waste the editor’s valuable time, no doubt; and yet he is learning a
lesson which may, perhaps, be useful to him in after-life; for it is
said that until he is undeceived by hard experience, every man is born
with the conviction that he can do three things--drive a dog-cart, sail
a boat, and edit a paper.


    ’A man must serve his time to every trade
    Save censure--critics all are ready made.’

It has been said that the function of a University is to criticise; but
the proposition is at least equally true that Oxford and Cambridge are
continually conjugating the verb in the passive.  We--and more
especially we who live in Oxford, for the sister University apparently
is either more virtuous or more skilful in concealing her peccadilloes
from the public eye--enjoy the priceless advantage of possessing
innumerable friends whose good nature is equalled by their frankness;
and if we do not learn wisdom, that is not because the opportunity is
not offered to us.  It is true that our great governing body, the
Hebdomadal Council, has hitherto preserved its independence by a prudent
concealment of its deliberations: no reporter has ever as yet penetrated
into that august assemblage; but whatever emerges to the light of day is
seized upon with avidity. Debates in Convocation or even in Congregation
(the latter body including only the resident Masters of Arts), although
the subject may have been somewhat remote from the interests of the
general public, and the number of the voters perhaps considerably
increased by the frivolous reason that it was a wet afternoon, when
there was nothing else to do than to govern the University--debates on
every conceivable subject blush to find themselves reported the next
morning almost in the greatest of daily papers; and perhaps the result
of a division on the addition of one more Oriental language to
Responsions, or one more crocket to a new pinnacle of St. Mary’s Church,
is even honoured by a leading article.  This is highly gratifying to
residents in the precincts of the University, but even to them it is now
and then not altogether comprehensible.  Nor is it only questions
concerning the University as a whole which appeal to the external
public; even college business and college scandal sometimes assume an
unnatural importance.  Years ago one of the tutors of a certain college
was subjected to the venerable and now almost obsolete process of
’screwing up,’ and some young gentlemen were rusticated for complicity
in the offence.  Even in academic circles the crime and its punishment
were not supposed to be likely to interfere with the customary
revolution of the solar system; but the editor of a London daily
paper--and one, too, which was supposed to be more especially in touch
with that great heart of the people which is well known to hold
Universities in contempt--considered the incident so important as to
publish a leading article with the remarkable exordium, ’Every one knew
that Mr. ----, of ---- College, would be screwed up some day!’  Most of
the _abonnés_ of this journal must, it is to be feared, have blushed for
their discreditable ignorance of Mr. ----’s existence, not to mention
that leaden-footed retribution which was dogging him to a merited doom.

[Illustration: _PORCH OF ST. MARY’S.  Drawn by J. Pennell._]

It is hardly necessary to say that in nine cases out of ten comment on
the proceedings of a learned University takes the form of censure: nor
are censors far to seek.  There are always plenty of young men more or
less connected with the Press who have wrongs to avenge; who are only
too glad to have an opportunity of ’scoring off’ the college authority
which did its best--perhaps unsuccessfully, but still with a manifest
intention--to embitter their academic existence; or of branding once for
all as reactionary and obscurantist the hide-bound regulations of a
University which did not accord them the highest honours. In these cases
accuracy of facts and statistics is seldom a matter of much importance.
Generally speaking, you can say what you like about a college, or the
University, without much fear of contradiction--provided that you
abstain from mere personalities. For one thing, the cap is always fitted
on some one else’s head.  It is not the business of St. Botolph’s to
concern itself with an attack which is obviously meant for St. Boniface:
it is darkly whispered in the St. Boniface common-room that after all no
one knows what actually _does_ go on in St. Botolph’s: and obviously
neither of these venerable foundations can have anything to do with
answering impeachments of the University and its financial system.
Moreover, even if the Dons should rouse themselves from their usual
torpor and attempt a defence, it is not very likely that the public will
listen to them: any statement proceeding from an academic source being
always regarded with the gravest suspicion. That is why ’any stick is
good enough to beat the Universities,’ and there are always plenty of
sticks who are quite ready to perform the necessary castigation.

Moreover, these writers generally deal with a subject which is always
interesting, because it is one on which every one has an opinion, and an
opinion which is entitled to respect--the education of youth.  Any one
can pick holes in the University system of teaching and
examination--’can strike a finger on the place, and say, "Thou ailest
here and here,"’--or construct schemes of reform: more especially young
men who have recently quitted their Alma Mater, and are therefore
qualified to assert (as they do, and at times not without a certain
plausibility) that she has failed to teach them anything.

That the British public, with so much to think about, should find time
to be diverted by abuse of its seats of learning, is at first a little
surprising; but there is no doubt that such satire has an agreeable
piquancy, and for tolerably obvious reasons.  English humour is
generally of the personal kind, and needs a butt; a capacity in which
all persons connected with education have from time immemorial been
qualified to perform, _ex officio_ (education being generally considered
as an imparting of unnecessary and even harmful knowledge, and obviously
dissociated from the pursuit of financial prosperity, both as regards
the teachers and the taught): Shakespeare set the fashion, and Dickens
and Thackeray have settled the hash of schoolmasters and college tutors
for the next fifty years, at any rate. Schoolmasters, indeed, are
becoming so important and prosperous a part of the community that they
will probably be the first to reinstate themselves in the respect of the
public; but Dons have more difficulties to contend against.  They have
seldom any prospect of opulence.  Then, again, they suffer from the
quasi-monastic character of colleges; they have inherited some of the
railing accusations which used to be brought against monasteries.  The
voice of scandal--especially feminine scandal--is not likely to be long
silent about celibate societies, and no Rudyard Kipling has yet arisen
to plead on behalf of Fellows that they

      ’aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barracks, most remarkable like you.’

Altogether the legend of ’monks,’ ’port wine and prejudice,’ ’dull and
deep potations,’ and all the rest of it, still damages Dons in the eyes
of the general public.  ’That’s ---- College,’ says the local guide to
his sightseers, ’and there they sits, on their Turkey carpets,
a-drinking of their Madeira, and Burgundy, and Tokay.’  Such is,
apparently, the impression still entertained by Society.  And no doubt
successive generations of Fellows who hunted four days a week, or, being
in Orders, ’thanked Heaven that no one ever took _them_ for parsons,’
did to a certain extent perpetuate the traditions of ’Bolton Abbey in
the olden time.’  Well, their day is over now. If the Fellow _fin de
siècle_ should ever venture to indulge in the sports of the field, he
must pretend that he has met the hounds by accident; and even then he
risks his reputation.

[Illustration: _IN EXETER COLLEGE CHAPEL.  Drawn by E. Stamp._]

It is always pleasant, too, to be wiser than one’s erstwhile pastors and
masters.  The pupil goes out into the great world; the teacher remains
behind, and continues apparently to go on in his old and crusted errors.
Outwardly the Universities do not change much, and it is easy to assume
that the habits and ideas of their denizens do not change either.  Thus
it is that the young men of the ’National Observer,’ coming back from a
Saturday-to-Monday visit to a university which they never respected and
are now entitled to despise, are moved to declare to the world the
complete inutility of what they call the Futile Don.  ’He is dead,’ they
say, ’quite dead;’ and if he is, might not the poor relic of mortality
be allowed in mere charity to lie peacefully entombed in his collegiate
cloisters?  Yet, after all, it is only among the great Anglo-Saxon race
that the profession of teaching is without honour; and even among us it
may be allowed that it is a mode of earning a pittance as decent and
comparatively innocuous as another.  We cannot, all of us, taste the
fierce joys of writing for the daily or weekly press, and the
barrister’s ’crowded hours of glorious life’ in the law courts would be
more overcrowded than ever were not a few _fainéants_ suffered to
moulder in the retirement of a university.  Seriously, it was all very
well for the young lions of the Press to denounce the torpor of Dons in
the bad old days when colleges were close corporations--when Fellows
inherited their bloated revenues without competition, and simply because
they happened to be born in a particular corner of some rural district.
But now that nearly every First-class man has the chance of election and
would be a Fellow if he could, one is tempted to recall the ancient
fable of the sour grapes.  Or at least the _esprits forts_ whom the
University has reluctantly driven out into the great world might be
grateful to her for saving them in spite of themselves from an existence
of futile incapacity.

Probably as long as colleges exist in something like their present
form--until the People takes a short way with them, abolishes common
rooms and the Long Vacation, and pays college tutors by a system of
’results fees’--these things will continue to be said.  Deans and Senior
Tutors will never escape the stigma of torpor or incapacity.  That quite
respectable rhymester, Mr. Robert Montgomery (who, had he not been
unlucky enough to cross the path of Lord Macaulay, might have lived and
died and been forgotten as the author of metrical works not worse than
many that have escaped the lash), has left to the world a long poem--of
which the sentiments are always, and the rhymes usually,
correct--entitled ’Oxford.’  He has taken all Oxford life for his
subject, Dons included; and this is how he describes the fate of College

    ’The dunce, the drone, the freshman or the fool,
    ’Tis theirs to counsel, teach, o’erawe, and rule!
    Their only meed--some execrating word
    To blight the hour when first their voice was heard.’

To a certain extent this is true in all ages. But there are worse things
than mere sloth: this is not the measure of the crimes charged against
college authorities.  They--even such contemptible beings as they--are
said to have the audacity to neglect untitled merit, and to truckle to
the aristocracy.  Every one knows Thackeray’s terrible indictment of
University snobs: Crump, the pompous dignitary (who, to do him justice,
seriously thinks himself greater than the Czar of All the Russias), and
Hugby, the tutor grovelling before the lordling who has played him a
practical joke.  Every one remembers how even the late Laureate gibbeted
his Dons--how

    Discussed his tutor, rough to common men.
    But honeying at the whisper of a lord:
    And one the Master, as a rogue in grain,
    Veneer’d with sanctimonious theory.’

No doubt Universities are not immaculate. There have been Tartuffes and
tuft-hunters there, as in the great world.  No doubt, too, it was very
wrong to allow noblemen to wear badges of their rank, and take their
degrees without examination (although the crime was a lesser one in the
days before class-lists were, when even the untitled commoner became a
Bachelor by dark and disreputable methods); but these things are not
done any more.  At this day there are probably few places where a title
is less regarded than at Oxford or Cambridge.  It is true that rumour
asserts the existence of certain circles where, _ceteris paribus_, the
virtuous proprietor of wealth and a handle to his name is welcomed with
more effusion than the equally respectable, but less fortunate, holder
of an eleemosynary exhibition.  But, after all, even external Society,
which regards tuft-hunting with just displeasure, does--it is
said--continue to maintain these invidious distinctions when it is
sending out invitations to dinner.  The fact is that there are a great
many peccadilloes in London which become crimes at the University.

Satire, however, does not confine itself to Dons: undergraduates come in
for a share of it too, though in a different way.  When the novelist
condescends to depict the Fellow of a college, it is usually as a person
more or less feeble, futile, and generally _manqué_. The Don can never
be a hero, but neither is he qualified to play the part of villain; his
virtues and his vices are all alike inadequate.  If he is bad, his
badness is rarely more than contemptible; if he is good, it is in a
negative and passionless way, and the great rewards of life are, as a
rule, considered as being out of his reach.  But with the undergraduate
the case is different.  He--as we have said--is always in extremes:
literature gives him the premier _rôle_ either as hero or villain; but
it is as the villain that he is the most interesting and picturesque.
Satire and fiction generally describe him as an adept in vicious habits.
So sings Mr. Robert Montgomery, with admirable propriety:--

    ’In Oxford see the Reprobate appear!
    Big with the promise of a mad career:
    With cash and consequence to lead the way,
    A fool by night and more than fop by day!’

Over and over again we have the old picture of the Rake’s Progress which
the world has learnt to know so well: the youth absents himself from his
lectures, perhaps even goes to Woodstock (horrid thought!)--’Woodstock
rattles with eternal wheels’ is the elegant phrase of Mr.
Montgomery--and, in short, plays the fool generally:--

    ’Till night advance, whose reign divine
    Is chastely dedicate to cards and wine.’

[Illustration: _PARSON’S PLEASURE.  Drawn by L. Speed._]

The specimen student of the nineteenth century will probably survive in
history as represented in these remarkable colours, and the virtuous
youth of a hundred years hence will shudder to think of a generation so
completely given over to drunkenness, debauchery, and neglect of the
Higher Life generally.  There is a _naïveté_ and directness about
undergraduate error which is the easy prey of any satirist; and
curiously enough the public, and even that large class which sends its
sons to the Universities, apparently likes to pretend a belief that
youth is really brought up in an atmosphere of open and unchecked
deviation from the paths of discipline and morality.  If Paterfamilias
seriously believed that the academic types presented to him in
literature were genuine and frequent phenomena, he would probably send
his offspring in for the London Matriculation.  But he knows pretty well
that the University is really not rotten to the core, and that colleges
are not always ruled by incapables, nor college opinion mainly formed by
rakes and spendthrifts; and at the same time it gives the British Public
a certain pleasure to imagine that it too has heard the chimes at
midnight, although it now goes to bed at half-past ten--that it has been
a devil of a fellow in its youth.  This fancy is always piquant, and
raises a man in his own estimation and that of his friends.

[Illustration: Fencing]

These little inconsistences are of a piece with the whole attitude of
the unacademic world towards the Universities.  Men come down from
London to rest, perhaps, for a day or two from the labours of the
Session. They are inspired with a transient enthusiasm for antiquity.
They praise academic calm: they affect to wish that they, too, were
privileged to live that life of learned leisure which is commonly
supposed to be the lot of all Fellows and Tutors.  Then they go away,
and vote for a new University Commission.


    ’Collegiate life next opens on thy way,
    Begins at morn and mingles with the day.’
      _R. Montgomery._

Half-past seven A.M.: enter my scout, noisily, as one who is accustomed
to wake undergraduates.  He throws my bath violently on the floor and
fills it with ice-cold water.  ’What kind of a morning is it?’  No
better than usual: rain, east wind, occasional snow.  _Must_ get up
nevertheless: haven’t superintended a roll-call for three days, and the
thing will become a scandal.  Never mind: one more snooze.... There are
the bells (Oh, those bells!) ringing for a quarter to eight.  Ugh!

Dress in the dark, imperfectly: no time to shave.  Cap and gown
apparently lost.  Where the ----  Oh, here they are, under the table.
Must try to develop habits of neatness. Somebody else’s cap: too big.

Roll-call in full swing in Hall: that is, the college porter is there,
ticking off undergraduates’ names as they come in.  Hall very cold and
untidy: college cat scavenging remnants of last night’s dinner.
Portrait of the Founder looking as if he never expected the college to
come to this kind of thing. Men appear in various stages of dishabille.
Must make an example of some one: ’Really Mr. Tinkler, I must ask you to
put on something besides an ulster.’  Tinkler explains that he is fully
dressed, opening his ulster and disclosing an elaborate toilet:
unfortunate--have to apologise.  During the incident several men without
caps and gowns succeed in making their escape.

Back in my rooms: finish dressing.  Fire out, no hot water.  This is
what they call the luxurious existence of a College Fellow. Post
arrives: chiefly bills and circulars: several notes from undergraduates.
’Dear Sir,--May I go to London for the day in order to keep an important
engagement.’  Dentist, I suppose. ’Dear Mr. ----,--I am sorry that I was
absent from your valuable lecture yesterday, as I was not aware you
would do so.’  ’Dear Sir,--I shall be much obliged if I may have leave
off my lecture this morning, as I wish to go out hunting.’  Candid, at
any rate.  ’Mr. ---- presents his compliments to Mr. ---- and regrets
that he is compelled to be absent from his Latin Prose lecture, because
I cannot come.’  Simple and convincing.  Whip from the Secretary of the
Non-Placet Society: urgent request to attend in Convocation and oppose
nefarious attempt to insert ’and’ in the wording of Stat. Tit. Cap. LXX.
18.  Never heard of the statute before.  Breakfast.

College cook apparently thinks that a hitherto unimpaired appetite can
be satisfied by what seems to be a cold chaffinch on toast. ’Take it
away, please, and get me an egg.’  Egg arrives: not so old as chaffinch,
but nearly: didn’t say I wanted a chicken.  Scout apologises: must have
brought me an undergraduate’s egg by mistake.  Never mind; plain living
and high thinking.  Two college servants come to report men absent last
night from their rooms.  Must have given them leave to go down: can’t
remember it, though.  Matter for investigation.  Porter reports
gentleman coming into college at 12.10 last night.  All right: ’The
Dean’s compliment’s to Mr. ----, and will he please to call upon him at
once. ’Mr. ----’s compliments to the Dean, and he has given orders not
to be awakened till ten, but will come when he is dressed.’  Obliging.

Lecture to be delivered at ten o’clock to Honours men, on point of
ancient custom: very interesting: Time of Roman Dinner, whether at 2.30
or 2.45.  Have got copious notes on the subject somewhere: must read
them up before lecture, as it never looks well to be in difficulties
with your own MS.--looks as if you hadn’t the subject at your fingers’
ends.  Notes can’t be found.  Know I saw them on my table three weeks
ago, and table can’t have been dusted since then. Oh, here they are:
illegible.  Wonder what I meant by all these abbreviations.  Never mind:
can leave that part out.  Five minutes past ten.

Lecture-room pretty full: two or three scholars, with air of superior
intelligence: remainder commoners, in attitudes more or less expressive
of distracted attention.  One man from another college, looking rather
_de trop_.  Had two out-college men last time: different men, too:
disappointing.  Begin my dissertation and try to make abstruse subject
attractive: ’learning put lightly, like powder in jam.’  Wish that
scholar No. 1 wouldn’t check my remarks by reference to the authority
from whom my notes are copied.  Why do they teach men German?  Second
scholar has last number of the ’Classical Review’ open before him.  Why?
Appears afterwards that the ’Review’ contains final and satisfying
_reductio ad absurdum_ of my theory.  Man from another college asks if
he may go away. Certainly, if he wishes.  Explains that he thought this
was Mr. ----’s Theology lecture. Seems to have taken twenty minutes to
find out his mistake.  Wish that two of the commoners could learn to
take notes intelligently, and not take down nothing except the
unimportant points.  Hope they won’t reproduce them next week in the

Ten fifty-five: peroration.  Interrupted by entrance of lecturer for
next hour.  Begs pardon: sorry to have interrupted: doesn’t go, however.
Peroration spoilt.  Lecture over: general sense of relief.  Go out with
the audience, and overhear one of them tell his friend that, after all,
it wasn’t so bad as last time.  Mem., not to go out with audience in

Eleven o’clock: lecture for Passmen. Twelve or fifteen young gentlemen
all irreproachably dressed in latest style of undergraduate
fashion--Norfolk jacket and brown boots indispensable--and all inclined
to be cheerfully tolerant of the lecturer’s presence _quand même_,
regarding him as a necessary nuisance and part of college system.  After
all there isn’t so much to do between eleven and twelve.  Some of them
can construe, but consider it unbecoming to make any ostentation of
knowledge.  Conversation at times animated.  ’Really, gentlemen, you
might keep something to talk about at the next lecture.’  Two men appear
at 11.25, noisily.  Very sorry: have been at another lecture: couldn’t
get away.  General smile of incredulity, joined in by the new arrivals
as they find a place in the most crowded part of lecture-room.  Every
one takes notes diligently, and is careful to burn them at the end of
the hour.  Translation proceeds rather slowly.  Try it myself: difficult
to translate Latin comedy with dignity. Give it up and let myself
go--play to the gallery.  Gallery evidently considers that frivolity on
the lecturer’s part is inappropriate to the situation.  11.55: ’Won’t
keep you longer, gentlemen.’

Twelve: time to do a little quiet work before lunch.  Gentleman who was
out after twelve last night comes to explain.  Was detained in a
friend’s room (reading) and did not know how late it was.  In any case
is certain he was in before twelve, because he looked at his watch, and
is almost sure his watch is fast.  Fined and warned not to do it again:
exit grumbling.  No more interruptions, I hope.....  Boy from the
Clarendon Press: editor wants something for the ’Oxford Magazine,’ at
once: not less than a column: messenger will wait while I write it.
Very considerate.  Try to write something: presence of boy embarrassing.
Ask him to go outside and wait on the staircase.  Does so, and continues
to whistle ’Daisy Bell,’ with accompaniment on the banisters
_obbligato_.  Composition difficult and result not satisfactory: hope no
one will read it.  Column nearly finished: man comes to explain why he
wants to be absent during three weeks of next term.  _Would_ he mind
going away and calling some other time?  Very well: when?  Oh, any time,
only not now.  This is what they call the leisure and philosophic calm
of collegiate life.

Lunch in Common Room: cold, clammy, and generally unappetising.  Guest
who is apparently an old member of the college greets me and says he
supposes I’ve forgotten him. ’Not at all: remember you quite well: glad
to meet you again.’  Haven’t the faintest idea what his name is:
awkward.  Appears in course of conversation to be ex-undergraduate whom
I knew very well and did not like.  Evidently regards me as a venerable
fossil: he himself has grown bald and fat and looks fifty, more or less:
suppose I must be about seventy or eighty. Vice-Principal wants to know
if I will play fives at two: yes, if he likes.  No, by the way, can’t;
have got to go and vote in Convocation. Don’t know what it is about, but
promised to go: can’t think why.  Time to go.

In the Convocation House.  Very few people there, nobody at all
interested.  Borrow Gazette and study list of agenda.  Question on which
I promised to vote comes on late, all sorts of uninteresting matters to
be settled first: mostly small money grants for scientific purposes:
pleasant way of wasting three-quarters of an hour.  My question here at
last: prepare to die in last ditch in defence of original form of
statute.  Member of Hebdomadal Council makes inaudible speech,
apparently on the subject.  No one else has anything to say: Council’s
proposal, whatever it is, carried _nem. con_.  No voting: might as well
have played fives after all: next time shall.

Time for walk round the Parks: rain and mud.  Worst of the Parks is, you
always meet people of houses where you ought to have called and haven’t.
Free fight under Rugby rules going on between University and somewhere
else. Watch it: don’t understand game: try to feel patriotic:
can’t......  Meeting at four to oppose introduction of Hawaiian as an
optional language in Responsions.  Not select: imprudent for a caucus to
transact business by inviting its opponents: people of all sorts of
opinions present.  Head of House makes highly respectable speech,
explaining that while qualified support of reform is conceivable and
even under possible circumstances advisable, premature action is rarely
consistent with mature deliberation.  Nobody seems to have anything
definite to suggest: most people move amendments. Safe to vote against
all of them: difficult to know how you are voting, however: wording of
amendments so confusing.  All of them negatived: substantive motion
proposed: lost as well.  Question referred to a Committee: ought to have
been done at first.  Hour and a half wasted.  Remember that I have cut
my five-o’clock pupil for second time running.  Am offered afternoon
tea: thirsty, but must be off: man at half-past five.  On the way back
meet resident sportsman in the High.  Has been out with hounds and had
best twenty-five minutes of the season, in the afternoon, three miles
off. Might have been there myself if it hadn’t been for Convocation:
hang Convocation!  Never mind; satisfaction of a good conscience: shall
always be able to say that I lost best run of season through devotion to

[Illustration: _LAWN TENNIS AT OXFORD.  Drawn by Lancelot Speed._]

Six forty-five: pupils gone; dress for seven-o’clock dinner with friend
at St. Anselm’s.  Man comes to ask why he has been gated: explain: man
not satisfied.  Gone, at any rate.  Another man, asking leave to be out
after twelve.  Five minutes to dress and walk a quarter of a mile. Wish
men wouldn’t choose this time for coming to see one.  Very late: dinner
already begun: no soup, thanks.  Meaty atmosphere: noisy atmosphere at
lower end of Hall: undergraduates throw bread about.  No one in evening
dress but myself.  Distinguished guest in shape of eminent German
Professor: have got next him somehow: wish I hadn’t: wears flannel shirt
and evidently regards me as a mere butterfly of fashion.  Speaks hardly
any English: try him in German: replies after an unusual effort on my
part, ’Ich spreche nur Deutsch.’  My command of the language evidently
less complete than I thought: or perhaps he only speaks his own patois.
Man opposite me Demonstrator at the Museum, who considers that the
University and the world in general was made for physiologists.

Small party in Common Room, most of diners having to see pupils or
attend meetings. Will I have any wine?  No one else drinks any and my
host is a teetotaller: ’No, thanks--never drink wine after dinner.’
Truth only a conventional virtue after all.  Eminent Teuton would like
more beer, but has been long enough in England to know better than to
ask for it. Am put next to Demonstrator, who endeavours to give general
ideas of digestive organs of a frog, interpreting occasionally in German
for Professor’s benefit: illustrates with fragments of dessert: most
interesting, I am sure. Nothing like the really good talk of an Oxford
Common Room, after all.  Senior Fellow drinks whisky and water and goes
to sleep.  Coffee and cigarettes: or will I have a weed? ’Thanks, but
must be off: man at nine...’  Back in college: rooms dark: can’t find my
matches and fall over furniture.

Man comes to read me an essay.  Know nothing about the subject: thought
he was going to write on something else.  Essay finished: must say
something: try to find fault with his facts.  Man confronts me with
array of statistics, apparently genuine: if so nothing more to say.
Criticise his grammar: man offended.  Interview rather painful, till
concluded by entrance of nine-thirty man with Latin prose.  Rather
superior young man, who considers himself a scholar.  Suggest that part
of his vocabulary is not according to classical usage: proves me wrong
by reference to dictionary. Is not surprised to find me mistaken.  Wish
that Higher Education had stopped in Board Schools and not got down to

Man at ten, with a desire to learn.  Stays till near eleven discussing
his chances in the schools at great length.  Presently comes to his
prospects in life.  Would send me to sleep if he wouldn’t ask me

Eleven: no more men, thank goodness. Tobacco and my lecture for
to-morrow.... Never could understand why a gentleman being neither
intoxicated nor in the society of his friends, cannot cross the
quadrangle without a view-halloo...  There he is again: must go out and
see what is going on.  Quadrangle very cold, raining.  Group of men
playing football in the corner: friends look on and encourage them from
windows above.  As I come on the scene all disappear, with shouts: none
identified: saves future trouble, at all events.  More tobacco and
period of comparative peace.  Bedtime.

Wish my scout wouldn’t hide hard things under the mattress.

Noise in quadrangle renewed: ’Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Bow-wow,’ with
variations.... Some one’s oak apparently battered with a poker.  _Ought_
to get up and go out to stop it....


    ’I had been used for thirty years to no interruption
    save the tinkling of the dinner-bell and the chapel-bell.’
      _Essays of Vicesimus Knox._

Standing with one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in a luxuriously
furnished ’Common Room’--such is Oxford life as summarised by a German
visitor, who appears to have been a good deal perplexed, like the outer
world in general, by the academic mixture of things ancient and modern,
and a host who wore a cap and gown over his evening dress.  Certainly
the University is a strange medley of contraries. It never seems to be
quite clear whether we are going too fast or too slow.  We are always
reforming something, yet are continually reproached with irrational
conservatism.  Change and permanence are side by side--permanence that
looks as if it could defy time:

    ’The form remains, the function never dies,’

and yet all the while the change is rapid and complete.  Men go down,
and are as if they had never been: as is the race of leaves so is that
of undergraduates; and so transiently are they linked with the enduring
existence of their University, that, except in the case of the minority
who have done great deeds on the river or the cricket-field, they either
pass immediately out of recollection or else remain only as a dim and
distant tradition of bygone ages.  An undergraduate’s memory is very
short.  For him the history of the University is comprised in the three
or four years of his own residence.  Those who came before him and those
who come after are alike separated from him by a great gulf; his
predecessors are infinitely older, and his successors immeasurably
younger.  It makes no difference what his relations to them may be in
after-life.  Jones, who went down in ’74, may be an undistinguished
country parson or a struggling junior at the Bar; and Brown, who came up
in ’75, may be a bishop or a Q.C. with his fortune made; but all the
same Brown will always regard Jones as belonging to the almost forgotten
heroic period before he came up, and Jones, whatever may be his respect
for Brown’s undoubted talents, must always to a certain extent feel the
paternal interest of a veteran watching the development of youthful
promise. So complete is the severance of successive generations, that it
is hard to see how undergraduate custom and tradition and College
characteristics should have a chance of surviving; yet somehow they do
manage to preserve an unbroken continuity.  Once give a College a good
or a bad name, and that name will stick to it.  Plant a custom and it
will flourish, defying statutes and Royal Commissions.  Conservatism is
in the air; even convinced Radicals (in politics) cannot escape from it,
and are sometimes Tories in matters relating to their University.  They
will change the constitution of the realm, but will not stand any
tampering with the Hebdomadal Council.  Whatever be the reason--whether
it be Environment or Heredity--Universities go on doing the same things,
only in different ways; they retain that indefinable habit of thought
which seems to cling to old grey walls and the shade of ancient elms,
which the public calls ’academic’ when it is only contemptuous,
explaining the word as meaning ’provincial with a difference’ when it is

[Illustration: _BOWLS IN NEW COLLEGE GARDEN.  Drawn by Lancelot Speed._]

There is the same kind of unalterableness about the few favoured
individuals to whom the spirit of the age has allowed a secure and
permanent residence in Oxford; a happy class which is now almost limited
to Heads of Houses and College servants.  You scarcely ever see a scout
bearing the outward and visible signs of advancing years; age cannot
wither them, nor (it should be added) can custom stale their infinite
variety of mis-serving their masters.  Perhaps it is they who are the
repositories of tradition. And even Fellows contrive to retain some of
the characteristics of their more permanent predecessors, whom we have
now learnt to regard as abuses.  Hard-worked though they are, and
precarious of tenure, they are, nevertheless, in some sort imbued with
that flavour of humanity and _dolce far niente_ which continues to haunt
even a Common Room where Fellows drink nothing but water, and only dine
together once a fortnight.

For times are sadly changed now, and a fellowship is far from being the
haven of rest which it once was, and still is to a few. Look at that old
Fellow pacing with slow and leisurely steps beneath Magdalen or
Christchurch elms: regard him well, for he is an interesting survival,
and presently he and his kind will be nothing but a memory, and probably
the progressive spirit of democracy will hold him up as an awful
example.  He is a link with a practically extinct period.  When he was
first elected _verus et perpetuus socius_ of his college--without
examination--the University of Oxford was in a parlous state. Reform was
as yet unheard of, or only loomed dimly in the distance.  Noblemen still
wore tufts--think how that would scandalise us now!--and ’gentlemen
commoners’ came up with the declared and recognised intention of living
as gentlemen commoners should.  Except for the invention of the
examination system--and the demon of the schools was satisfied with only
a mouthful of victims then--Oxford of the forties had not substantially
changed since the last century--since the days when Mr. Gibbon was a
gentleman commoner at Magdalen College, where his excuses for cutting
his lectures in the morning were ’received with a smile,’ and where he
found himself horribly bored by the ’private scandal’ and ’dull and deep
potations’ of the seniors with whom he was invited to associate in the
evening.  Not much had changed since those days: lectures were still
disciplinary exercises rather than vehicles of instruction, and the
vespertinal port was rarely if ever interrupted in its circulation by
’the man who comes at nine.’  Many holders of fellowships scarcely came
near the University; those who did reside were often not much concerned
about the instruction of undergraduates, and still less with
’intercollegiate competition.’  Perhaps it was not their life’s work: a
fellowship might be only a stepping-stone to a college living, when a
sufficiently fat benefice should fall vacant and allow the dean or
sub-warden to marry and retire into the country; and even the don who
meant to be a don all his days put study or learned leisure first and
instruction second, the world not yet believing in the ’spoon-feeding’
of youth.  Very often, of course, they did nothing.  After all, when you
pay a man for exercising no particular functions, you can scarcely blame
him for strictly fulfilling the conditions under which he was elected.
’But what do they do?’ inquired--quite recently--a tourist, pointing to
the fellows’ buildings of a certain college. ’Do?!!’ replied the Oxford
cicerone--’do? ... why them’s fellows!’  But if there was inactivity, it
is only the more credit to the minority who really did interest
themselves in the work of their pupils.  Not that the relation of
authorities to undergraduates was ever then what it has since
become--whether the change be for the better or the worse.  Few attempts
were made to bridge the chasm which must always yawn between the life of
teacher and taught.  Perhaps now the attempt is a little
over-emphasised; certainly things are done which would have made each
particular hair to stand on end on the head of a Fellow of the old
school.  In his solemn and formal way he winked at rowing, considering
it rather fast and on the whole an inevitable sign of declining morals.
He wore his cap and gown with the anachronistic persistency of Mr. Toole
in ’The Don,’ and sighed over the levity of a colleague who occasionally
sported a blue coat with brass buttons.  Had you told him that within
the present century College Tutors would be seen in flannels, and that a
Head of a House could actually row on the river in an eight--albeit the
ship in question be manned by comparatively grave and reverend seniors,
yclept the Ancient Mariners--he would probably have replied in the
formula ascribed to Dr. Johnson: ’Let me tell you, sir, that in order to
be what you consider humorous it is not necessary that you should be
also indecent!’  But there is a lower depth still; and grave dignitaries
of the University have been seen riding bicycles.

All this would have been quite unintelligible to the youthful days of
our friend, whom we see leisurely approaching the evening of his days in
the midst of a generation that does not know him indeed, but which is
certainly benefited by his presence and the picture of academic repose
which he displays to his much-troubled and harassed successors: a
peaceful, cloistered life; soon to leave nothing behind it but a brass
in the College chapel, a few Common Room anecdotes, and a vague
tradition, perhaps, of a ghost on the old familiar staircase.  Far
different is the lot of the Fellow _fin de siècle_; ’by many names men
know him,’ whether he be the holder of an ’official’ Fellowship, or a
’Prize Fellow’ who is entitled to his emoluments only for the paltry
period of seven years.  And what emoluments!  Verily the mouth of
Democracy must water at the thought of the annual ’division of the
spoils’ which used to take place under the old _régime_: spoils which
were worth dividing, too, in the days when rents were paid without a
murmur, and colleges had not as yet to allow tenants to hold at
half-a-crown an acre, lest the farm should be unlet altogether.  But now
if a Prize Fellow receives his 200*l.* a year he may consider himself
lucky; and remember that if he is not blessed with this world’s goods,
the grim humours of the last Commission at least allowed him the
inestimable privilege of marrying--on 200*l.* a year.  After all, it is
not every one who receives even that salary for doing nothing.

The ’official’ variety of Fellow, or the Prize Fellow who chooses to be
a College Tutor, is a schoolmaster, with a difference. He has rather
longer holidays--if he can afford to enjoy them-and a considerably
shorter purse than the instructors of youth at some great schools.  He
is so far unfortunate in his predecessors, that he has inherited the
reputation of the Fellows of old time. Everybody else is working: the
Fellow is still a useless drone.  As a matter of fact, the unfortunate
man is always doing something--working vehemently with a laudable desire
to get that into eight weeks which should properly take twelve; or
taking his recreation violently, riding forty miles on a bicycle, with a
spurt at the finish so as not to miss his five-o’clock pupil; sitting on
interminable committees--everything in Oxford is managed by a committee,
partly, perhaps, because ’Boards are very often screens;’ or sitting
upon a disorderly undergraduate.  On the whole, the kicks are many, and
the halfpence comparatively few.  He has the Long Vacation, of course,
but then he is always employed in writing his lectures for next term, or
compiling a school edition, or a handbook, or an abridgment of somebody
else’s school edition or handbook, in order to keep the pot
boiling--more especially if he has fallen a victim to matrimony, and
established himself in the red-brick part of Oxford. It is true that
there is the prospect--on paper--of a pension when he is past his work,
but in the present state of College finances that is not exactly a vista
of leisured opulence. Altogether there is not very much repose about
_him_.  College Tutors in these days are expected to work.  It is on
record that a tourist from a manufacturing district on seeing four
tutors snatching a brief hour at lawn-tennis, remarked, ’I suppose
there’s _another shift_ working inside?’  Such are the requirements of
the age and the manufacturing districts.

Nor are beer and skittles unadulterated the lot of the undergraduate
either--whatever the impression that his sisters and cousins may derive
from the gaieties of the Eights and ’Commem.’  For the spirit of the
century and the ’Sturm und Drang’ of a restless world has got hold of
the ’Man,’ too, and will not suffer him to live quite so peacefully as
the Verdant Greens and Bouncers of old.  Everybody must do something;
they must be ’up and doing,’ or else they have a good chance of finding
themselves ’sent down.’  I do not speak of the reading man, who
naturally finds his vocation in a period of activity--but rather of the
man who is by nature non-reading, and has to sacrifice his natural
desires to the pressure of public opinion acting through his tutor.
Perhaps he is made to go in for honours; but even if he reads only for a
pass, the schools are always with him--he is always being pulled up to
see how he is growing; or at least he must be serving his College in one
way or another--if not by winning distinction in the schools, by toiling
on the river or the cricket-field.  Then he is expected to interest
himself in all the movements of the last quarter of the nineteenth
century; he must belong to several societies; he cannot even be properly
idle without forming himself into an association for the purpose.  If he
wants to make a practice of picnicing on the Cherwell he founds a
’Cherwell Lunch Club,’ with meetings, no doubt, and possibly an ’organ’
to advocate his highly meritorious views.  An excellent and a healthy
life, no doubt! but yet one is tempted sometimes to fear that the loafer
may become extinct; and then where are our poets to come from? For it is
a great thing to be able to loaf well: it softens the manners and does
not allow them to be fierce; and there is no place for it like the
streams and gardens of an ancient University.  If a man does not learn
the great art of doing nothing there, he will never acquire it anywhere
else; and it is there, and in the summer term, that this laudable
practice will probably survive when it is unknown even in Government

[Illustration: _COACHING THE EIGHT.  By J. H. Lorimer._]

For there is a season of the year when even the sternest scholar or
athlete and the most earnest promoter of Movements yields to the _genius
loci_; when the summer term is drawing to a close, and the May east
winds have yielded to the warmth of June, and the lilacs and laburnums
are blossoming in College gardens; when the shouting and the glory and
the bonfires of the Eights are over, and the invasion of Commemoration
has not yet begun.  Then, if ever, is the time for doing nothing.  Then
the unwilling victim of lectures shakes off his chains and revels in a
temporary freedom, not unconnected with the fact that his tutor has gone
for a picnic to Nuneham. Perhaps he has been rowing in his College
Eight, and is entitled to repose on the laurels of ’six bumps;’ perhaps
he is not in the schools himself, and can afford to pity the
unfortunates who are.  And how many are the delightful ways of loafing!
You may propel the object of your affections--if she is up, as she very
often is at this time--in a punt on that most academic stream, the
Cherwell, while Charles (your friend) escorts the chaperon in a dingey
some little distance in front; you may lie lazily in the sun in
Worcester or St. John’s gardens, with a novel, or a friend, or both; you
may search Bagley and Powderhill for late bluebells, and fancy that you
have found ’high on its heathy ridge’ the tree known to Arnold and
Clough. Or if you are more enterprising you may travel further afield
and explore the high beech woods of the Chiltern slopes and the bare,
breezy uplands of the Berkshire downs; but this, perhaps, demands more
energy than belongs to the truly conscientious loafer.

[Illustration: _EVENING ON THE RIVER.  Drawn by E. Stamp._]

Well, let the idle undergraduate make the most of his time now; it is
not likely that he will be able to loaf in after-life.  Nor (for the
matter of that) will his successors be allowed to take their ease here
in Oxford even in the summer, in those happy days when the University is
to be turned into an industrial school, and a place for the education no
longer of the English gentleman but the British citizen.  Will that day
ever come? The spirit of the age is determined that it shall.  But
perhaps the spirit of the place may be too much for it yet.

                    _London: Strangeways, Printers._

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